Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Race Against Time

I just got in from work -- ran late tonight, as I worked late, then had left the lights on in the car, so I had to wait for a boost. A mixed blessing I suppose, as I managed to listen to most of Stephen Lewis' second lecture in the 2005 Massey Lecture series, entitled, Race Against Time.

Lewis is a talented lecturer, a humanitarian and has had extensive experience in Africa in his role as the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. He spoke passionately of the need to confront the pandemic -- a crisis that the world seems totally disinterested in. He spoke of personal tragedies -- of seeing grandmothers losing their children, and raising their grand-kids -- of the grand-kids who have HIV. He told of visiting a family, of seeing the mother lying in her hut, unable to move from weakness -- of him uttering useless words of comfort -- then turning to see the children in the darkness of the hut -- orphans while watching their mother slowly die. He spoke of his travels with Graca Machel -- of him watching her comfort three girls, and realizing that it was the first mothering the teens had ever had; realizing that there is a generation growing up without the benefit of parental comfort, of having lessons passed on, of knowing a parent's love.

He spoke of visiting a faith-based charitable organization, that helps those suffering from HIV/AIDS, and being proudly led to the back to see their self-funding project. There he saw young men fashioning paper mache coffins for little bodies. With sad pride they proclaimed that demand was so great that they can hardly keep up. He spoke of visiting a group of people living with HIV/AIDS to see how they were helping themselves. They showed him their cabbage patch, where they grew cabbage for food, and sold the excess at the market. He asked what they did with the profit, and they thought he was joking at first -- they assumed he knew the answer. The profits went to buying coffins. They were always in need of coffins.

Lewis spoke personally of the tragedies he encountered. Of not having enough time to consummate friendships, as the people he met would die before he visited again. His voice cracked a few times. You can feel his pain, if not the pain of Africa's HIV/AIDS victims, in his voice. Listening to him speak of what he's seen doesn't fill one with dread, but hopelessness. It makes me want to cry, except tears would accomplish absolutely nothing. Africa has passed beyond tears.

The last three of the lectures will be airing on CBC Radio One IDEAS programme, the rest of this week, at 9PM. You can tune into it, or listen online.

1 comment:

  1. Have had HIV since 1989, AIDS since March of this year (now taking Truvada and Sustiva). Things are going well, but live in a small community where it's hard to meet other POZ (but there is always online HIV+ chat sites.

    Thanks, DaveyBoy.


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