Orphans of Africa's AIDS Epidemic by gjjur4356


                                                                                         INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT WEEK:

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                                                                                                                                                                    Page 13

                                             the Journal

                        E s t . 1 9 3 5 · Vo l . 7 2 · N o . 1 7 · J a n u a r y 2 4 t h , 2 0 0 7                   The Student Newspaper of Saint Mary’s University · Halifax · NS
Photo by Leslie Power

            Orphans of Africa’s
            AIDS Epidemic
            A First Hand Account
                        By leslie Power                          (CIDA) and the Youth Employment         and youth are benefiting from HL’s           The women of Lesotho have a after families, caring for orphans,
                                                                 Strategy (YES) Program, imple-          programs and projects.                  compound vulnerability to HIV/ and undertaking alternative income
                        Lesotho is projected to have the         mented by Saint Mary’s University.           During my time in Lesotho          AIDS. They                                                           generating
                        highest increase in AIDS orphans         I am a recent graduate in Health        I have been supporting HL on            a re b i ol og i-                                                    activities.
                        in Africa over the next four years!      Education and my placement with         numerous initiatives that address       cally twice as                                                       In addition
                        That number is so large, I cannot        HL has considerably increased my        gender equity. The Women of Le-         likely to be in-                                                     to shoulder-
                        fathom the implications. Lesotho         transferable professional skills,       sotho are oppressed, under-repre-       fected through                                                       ing the bur-
                        is a small mountain kingdom of           knowledge base for future employ-       sented and all too often neglected,     a single act of                                                      den of care,
                        two million people with few re-          ment and above all the opportunity      especially girls. As a young woman,     sex and gen-                                                         women are
                        sources to address the ravages of        has intensely personalized interna-     it is disheartening to watch bright     der inequity                                                         suffering
                        poverty and HIV/AIDS. Lesotho,           tional health issues.                   women succumb to oppression             renders young                                                        from dis-
                        landlocked within South Africa, has          HL has support from donors all      when they have so much to offer to      women much                                                           criminatory
                        the world’s third highest incidence      across Canada. It works directly        their country. Infection rates among    more socially                                                        norms and
                        of HIV/AIDS. Incidence rates range       with AIDS orphans and commu-            women are rising alarmingly and         vulnerable                                                           practices.
                        from 25 percent to a devastating 55      nity partners to support locally        currently stand at a staggering and     to becoming                                                          Their sub-
                        percent in the mountain regions.         initiated and managed projects          inconceivable 59 percent. Among         infected. In-                                                        ordination
                            For six months I have been           for the benefit of those who are        young people ages 15 to 24, the dif-    d i s p u t a b l y,                                                 in family
                        working for Help Lesotho (HL),           left from this horrific disease. Core   ference in rates of infection is even   they are over-                                                       and public
                        a Canadian educational charity           programs include child sponsor-         more striking: HIV infected young       whelmingly                                                           life is a core
                        (www.helplesotho.ca), as an HIV/         ship, twinned schools, governance       women outnumber young men               more affected Map of Africa coloured according to the percentage cause of the
                        AIDS Support Officer in Lesotho.         training, grandmother support           three to one. As in most African        by the inevi-        of the Adult (ages 15-49) population with HIV/  increasing
                                                                 programs, leadership development        countries, the hugely dispropor-        table conse-                     AIDS. (quickseek.com)               rate of HIV
                        My position is an internship made
                        possible by the International Youth      among the orphan population, gen-       tionate level of infection in women     quences of the                                                       infection
                        Internship Program of the Canadian       der equity and HIV/AIDS Clubs.          and girls suggests this is a pan-       pandemic. Women are more often and they often lack the means of
                        International Development Agency         More than 7,000 AIDS orphans            demic at the expense of women.          the ones tending to the sick, looking                            Continued on p4
                                                                                the Journal · January 24th, 2007

Continued from p1                       dresses the profound suffering of
                                        Africa is the only hope for change.
power to negotiate for safer sex.       The international community must
    Supporting HL programs that         act now as the worst of the HIV/
address gender equality has been        AIDS pandemic is yet come. In
a heart wrenching but ultimately        Lesotho alone, hundreds of thou-
rewarding experience. During a          sands more people will suffer and
recent HL Young Women’s Confer-         die leaving their children to join the
ence, it was remarkable to watch        millions of orphans forced to fend
a three day transformation of the       for themselves without parents,
participants in response to the         without support, no one to feed
careful support, guidance and nur-      them and no one left to care.
turing. By its end, the young girls         I am inspired daily by the
had increased their knowledge of        strength of the people of Lesotho,
HIV/AIDS, sexual health, gender         especially the many women, who
equality and most importantly had       face each day’s suffering with in-
improved their self confidence and      surmountable care and generosity
self worth. The HL website posts        to their communities, families and
speeches written during the confer-     the survival of an overwhelming
ence by the participants so that they   number of orphans. I am grateful to
may have a voice in the world and       Saint Mary’s University and Dr. Peg
demonstrate the urgency of helping      Herbert, Executive Director of Help
the women of Africa. It is not pos-     Lesotho, for this opportunity to
sible to overstate the devastating      work in Lesotho and I implore you
price these women pay for gender        who read this article to do whatever
inequality in their emotional tur-      you can to help Africa save lives
moil, HIV/AIDS infeåction rates,        and protect human rights. Together
sexual abuse and vulnerability.         we can build a future with those
    Collective activism that ad-        that are left.

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