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I Know. I Took The Test: Stories from Second Life


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Interview of Jena Ball

Jena Ball and Michelle Samplin-Salgado in Second Life

Jena Ball and Michelle Samplin-Salgado in Second Life

We’ve shared HIV testing story intiatives from the Southern AIDS Living Quilt, POZ magazine, and the National Association of People with AIDS leading up to National HIV Testing Day. Today’s post will take us “in world” to some virtual testing day story initiatives happening in Karuna Exit Disclaimer, the National Library of Medicine’s Exit Disclaimer island for AIDS outreach and information in the virtual world of Second Life. Though these stories are from avatars Exit Disclaimer, they are equally as “real” as the others we’ve shared. I spoke to Jena Ball, Project Coordinator of Karuna (Jenaia Morane in Second Life). She told me about the Karuna’s new story initiative, “Healing Quests” that was launched in honor of National HIV Testing Day:

  • Image of Karuna

    Aerial image of Karuna Island

    What is the Healing Quest initiative?
    “Healing Quests” are part of the ongoing efforts at Karuna to celebrate the lives of those dealing with HIV and AIDS. Participants in the quests embark on a journey of self-discovery designed to help them tell stories.

  • What inspired you to develop an HIV story project in Second Life?
    There is a small but growing number of people dealing with HIV/AIDS who have come to Second Life to explore and find sources of community and support. I have heard many stories from people dealing with HIV/AIDS. It was incredibly healing to write about my own experiences losing a friend to AIDS. I thought, ”what if we used stories to help us think about and see the events, situations, people, and yes, HIV, as lessons we can learn from?”
  • Aerial image of Karuna Island

    Image of Karuna

    How is telling stories in Second Life different from real life? Or is it?
    Telling stories is universal. The marvelous thing about Second Life is that you can tell your story in so many ways. For example, if I felt like I was under a cloud of depression, I could create a virtual cloud and record my voice talking about how I feel. Second Life is not just one tool – it’s many different tools. A real example of this in Second Life is Cancerland. Your avatar can walk through the story of how a woman was diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer. It’s very powerful. I personally think that Second Life is very real. It’s just a different kind of real. We just have different things to learn about ourselves here.

  • If someone is interested in sharing their story in Second Life, where can they find more information?
    This month’s quest is entitled “TESTED,” and began at midnight on Thursday, June 4th and continues through midnight on Thursday, June 25th. All participants will have the option of having their stories shared in Karuna Garden of Experience, the Poetry/Story Garden, and Gallery on Storybook Island (all in Second Life).

If you’re new to Second Life, Virtual Ability Island Exit Disclaimer has a helpful tutorial and orientation center. The Non-profits in Second Life wiki Exit Disclaimer also had a list of resources about getting started in Second Life. Then visit us in Karuna Exit Disclaimer or Storybook Island Exit Disclaimer. For more information about Karuna please contact Jena (aka Jenaia Morane in Second Life) or by

Have you been in Second Life? Interested in learning more? We welcome your stories in the comments section below! And check back next week to learn about more ways people are sharing their personal HIV testing stories.

Looking for your local HIV testing center in real life? Send a text message with your ZIP code to “KNOWIT” (566948) or visit