BBz10: The sleeker the berry

Its no news that RIM, the maker of blackberry, has been getting its tailed whacked for a minute. With plunging stock price and declining sales, the colossal failure of the Playbook almost sealed RIM’s fate. So for 24 months, RIM hunkered down and regrouped. They laid off staff and tempered the fears of shareholders with promises of a new product. Inspite of media pressure, they refused to launch this new product until they were really ready.

In the meantime, Samsung jumped in to fill the void with Galaxy II and III.  Apple, RIM’s digital nemesis, launched iPhone 3, 4, 4s and 5 with much fanfare. Crackberry was no more. Critics hammered the beleaguered blackberry and predicted that the Ontario based company was heading towards Nortel avenue.  But on February 5th, RIM outdoored the new BBz10 to a chorus of fantastic reviews.

I got to hold the newly revamped BBz10, and for 15 minutes, I was gushing like a bride who had just found her wedding dress. Although I am a long time Apple fan, I have to admit that aesthetically, the BBz10 is more  appealing than the iPhone 5. It is longer, wider, thinner and altogether sleeker than the iPhone.  The famous Qwerty keyboard is now embedded into a touch screen that spits out words even as  you type. The operating system for the new blackberry has also been improved to incorporate fast browsing and great multimedia capabilities.

Move over Samsung, watch out Apple: RIM is  back to claim its market share.

Stephen Lewis

I was perhaps the only person living in Canada who did not know who Stephen Lewis was. I first heard of him when I went to Uganda, as part of a daring mission to gather positive stories out of a continent often besieged by poverty and political unrest. By the time I arrived in its capital Kampala, Uganda’s growing notoriety on homophobia and albino killings made me doubt if good news even existed in the country.

That was until I saw a sign for Reach Out Mbuya. Reach Out Mbuya is an out-patient HIV centre supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation. I could tell you that it provides HIV testing, anti-retroviral drugs and counselling to affected people across Uganda. But the truth is, Reach Out removes the burden of shame and stigma that HIV patients carry and replaces it with hope.

I still remember Justine. When I was told I was going to meet an HIV positive beneficiary of the centre, I expected an emaciated bag of bones waiting to die from AIDs. I was surprised to see a healthy looking mother of 10 who lives and works in Kampala. Indeed, the confidence in her stride and the optimism in her eyes contradicts the stereotypical image of the HIV positive African. Justine is a community activist, an educator, a caregiver to dying patients and the primary provider for an entire family. Thanks to the support she receives from Reach Out, Justine refuses to be ostracized or hampered by her HIV status. She is the epitome of what Reach Out calls ‘Positively living’.

Since 2003, the Stephen Lewis Foundation has funded over 700 initiatives in 15 countries. It has become a lifeline for many grassroots organizations by granting them funds to provide care, education and treatment to people suffering from HIV/AIDS. In May 2011, the foundation organised an AIDS benefit concert called Hope Rising. The concert brought together like-minded philanthropists like Angelique Kidjo, Alicia Keys, K’naan etc. to raise funds for this exceptional organization. My enthusiasm and passion for the work that Stephen Lewis is doing cannot be fully expressed in this brief request. It is for this reason that I hope you wilI visit and see how you donate. Here are excerpts of the Hope Rising concert

HIV awareness

I was shocked to see images of Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake and Serena Williams lying in coffins. They had staged their Digital Deaths on World AIDS day to raise awareness on the HIV AIDS epidemic . Alicia Keys who is spearheading this movement  is the impassioned co-founder of Keep A Child Alive, a non profit organization that provides support to families affected by HIV/AIDs. On December 1st, she unveiled where fellow celebrities like Usher have committed not to update their Facebook or Twitter accounts until $1,000,000 is raised to support the cause. No matter how you feel about these attention grabbing headlines, you cannot deny that the overarching message is a powerful one.  As of 2009, over 33.3 million people worldwide live with HIV/AIDS and unfortunately, they continue to suffer from ostracization and stigma that comes from a lack of awareness about the disease.  

One such myth was  addressed on a recent Oprah show when Bridget, a woman living with HIV sharply set Oprah straight on the truth about living with HIV. Bridget explained that she had spiralled into a state of depression when she found out that she had been infected with HIV by her Down-low cheating husband. Oprah attempted to encourage Bridget to emulate how Magic Johnson is still living a great  life irrespective of his HIV status. This statement sparked a heated exchange where Bridget correctly explained that the average HIV positive person does not have access to the same level of medical care, nutritionist, and personal trainers that Magic Johnson can afford.


Indeed, most of us are oblivious to the realities of living with HIV.  We repeat what we have read about the remarkable advances of Anti Retroviral drugs without acknowledging the health toll associated with low CD4+T cell numbers, loss of appetite, lack of energy or how to adjust to the gruelling challenges of HIV. The least we can do to help is to hold back on stigma infused judgement and support causes (like that raise awareness on how to beat HIV/AIDS.