HIV and AIDS – the reality

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Comment by the Revd Canon Sue Booys
I’ve just returned from a visit to Africa where I was privileged to visit a project in our link Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman as well as spending time in Kenya with a group of young people, mostly from Dorchester Team parishes, who were visiting and working in day centres for impoverished and orphaned children in the rural towns of Mumias and Musanda by the NASIO Trust whose UK base is in Abingdon.

Sue leads Kenyan school children in 'heads, shoulders, knees and toes.'

Sue leads Kenyan school children in ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes.’

Both projects were based in communities where the numbers of people who are HIV positive is very high and with World AIDS Day falling at the beginning of December it’s good to have the opportunity to share some stories. In Kimberley and Kuruman Diocese I visited the parish of Boegoeberg with Shirley Hoy, a member of the Dorchester Team Council, as the first step in establishing a parish to parish link and to help develop a project that feeds about 200 pre-school children.
Boegoeberg is a community in the Archdeaconry of the Khalari. It was created around the 1960’s when people classified as ‘Coloured’ under Apartheid Law were forcibly moved from a variety of places to a village called Brandboom (which literally translated means ‘Burning Bush’). Deprivation is high, with unemployment at 70 to 80 per cent, and HIV infection rates of 40 to 50 per cent. The project is run primarily by women who were inspired by an Anglican Women’s Federation conference to do something for their own community. Every Tuesday a meal is provided (which the children can take home) along with community based worship (songs, dances and prayer).  One of the leaders of the project, Sarah, has been nominated for the Shoprite Women of the Year award for her contribution.
That is the formal description – the stark reality of seeing so many children queue for a meagre plateful of food (especially when, as visitors and guests, your fine meal is spread on a table in front of them all) is shocking. As is the protectiveness over their precious lidded containers, the significant number of under-fives who bring the babies that they are looking after, and the fact that these obviously hungry children are saving a tiny portion of food to eat – or even share – later.
We observe World AIDS Day but I noticed that in Africa people always speak of being HIV positive. It’s a more accurate a description and doesn’t pass judgement on the person.  Two people I met on my travels have very different stories. A four year old Kenyan boy who is HIV positive. His mother was “inherited” (when her husband died she was passed on to his brother) a convention which should allow a family to care for a widow but often results in  ill treatment. His mother has died from AIDS related illness and he is HIV positive. When we collected him from school to visit him at home he was asleep on the floor.    He lives with an uncle and aunt who care for his three older siblings (who are not HIV positive) and their own four children. He is receiving treatment but his teacher says his prospects are not good.
“…so many children queue for a meagre plateful of food…”
 A seven year old AIDS orphan – she is cared for by and carer for her grandmother who is 90 and blind – whilst we were in Kenya she was admitted to hospital, paid for by the charity, and her house cleaned and renovated by our group of NASIO volunteers.
So much is being done in terms of treatment, perception and care for our sisters and brothers who are HIV positive but it remains a drop in the ocean and anything we do to make a difference in ensuring a healthy diet, proper treatment and the right language is a MUST!
For more on how to make a difference on World Aids Day see http://www.worldaidsday.org/
Pictured above Sue leads school children in ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ in Kenya. Below is the Boegoeberg food project.
This is an older post. Please note that the information may not be accurate anymore.