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This article analyses and theorises the practice of biographical storytelling of HIV-positive AIDS activists in South Africa. Combining research in illness narratives, studies of emotions in social activism and analysis of global health institutions in Africa, I explore how biographical self-narrations are deployed to facilitate access to resources and knowledge and thus acquire material and symbolic value. I illustrate my argument through the analysis of the case of an AIDS activist who became a professional biographical storyteller. Based on the analysis which I claim to represent wider dynamics in human-rights-based health activism in the Global South, I propose the concept of narrative economies by which I mean the set of exchange relationships within which biographical self-narrations circulate and produce social value for individuals and organisations.