Monday, 14 December 2009

The First Century After Beatrice and HIV

This absolutely lyrical novel by renown writer Amin Maalouf has certainly made some connections in my head. Let me not go so far as to say that he was writing this with HIV in mind, but I very much doubt that he was writing it from a "place" free of HIV.

To explain a little. The novel sets off with a scientist and his journalist wife stumbling over a scoop that there exists a drug that favours male births. At first their worries are paid no heed by the general public, but after some time, after being confronted with birth statistics, the general public starts to realize that this is actually the case.

A decrease in female births, naturally leads to a decrease in births. The tendency in the novel, was that especially in so-called developing (3rd world) countries, giving birth to boys had higher status than giving birth to girls.

Now how does this relate to HIV? Well, Once it has been revealed for all that there in fact does exist a drug favouring male births, a person of influence in politics on an international level, comes out and declares that this is a good thing! If people of poor countries give birth to fewer girls, there will eventually be less people. Instead of this drug posing a problem, it is posing a solution to overpopulation and poverty in these countries!

Quite a few people are taken in by this argument, and the trend of giving birth to mostly boys reach the Western countries too. Once the generation of mostly boys start entering their puperty, the flaws of this "perfect solution" are revelead, however. Because of the lack of girls, the boys growing up are becoming more frustrated, violent and depressed. Adam needs his Eve!

To return to MY argument, what this makes me wonder, is at people's attitutes towards poverty and the so-called 3rd world countries. It makes me wonder if a lot of people can ignore the huge threat we are facing with the HIV pandemic, on the basis that some "good" comes from it (such a lethal disease surely keeps the world and the 3rd world countries from overpopulating). It also makes me wonder if we will only take serious action once it hits home with the same force it has hit other parts of the world(parallel to how in the novel, people only realized their errors when they saw how the boys were turning out).

This is yet another North/South dichotomy. The North refuses to take responsibility as long as the problems remain in the South. What we don't realize is that if we don't help them there, it's going to get us too eventually. It's only a question of time.

Eulogy to a Figure

Dearest Lisa,

You are certainly not the average face of HIV. The first time I saw you, you stood out in the crowd so starkly, with your white skin and your "mlongo"/ "ngamla" (spelling?) ways. Being Afrikaans amongst mostly zulu/sotho women, could surely not have been easy. And for someone with such a strong personality, it must have been even more difficult. You had your fair share of drama. Not overrun by anyone. Not outtalked by any language. And despite dodging your duties, you never meant any harm.

Certainly not the average face of HIV. Not the victim, although you had your pains. Broke, but never without a plan for how to afford more cigarettes. You wore a death sentence, yet still had the hope of going to England to visit your sister.

It saddens me greatly to know you are gone, Lisa. Even tho you were different, you shed light. You had things to say, things to do, stories to tell. You were funny, oh so funny. And when you’d laugh –there was such an innocence to it.

Oh the times when you’ve escaped the matrons… Running between Berea and the Village. Because of this, you were probably the one to know everyone best.

Lisa, I always considered you an ally. A friend. You always treated me as a friend, and I hope you felt the same about me. And I hope you know that I care about you.

Your time came. You have exited this world and entered the world of statistics. You have become a figure (but not to me and not to those who knew you). Perhaps your death was a mercy; to spare you more pain (I know how ill the ARVs made you). You will certainly be missed. And if I ever wander from 34 Vereeniging Service Road up the hill to Calvary Christian College to pick up the kids again, I will think of the last time we went that way together. I’ll think about how much you hoped to be able to go visit your sister. And how I’d somehow always feel in a good mood when I was with you. About how you’d wave me over to share some plot with me, some secret. And about that time you took some extra food in the kitchen and just managed to hide it before getting caught (and how you almost gave yourself away). And the next time I gaze upon the big tree on the lawn right outside the gates of the Village, I’ll think about the times when I’ve stood here with you, keeping you company when you went outside for a smoke.

Wherever you are Lisa, I wish you all the best. And I wish you rest. Not the average face of HIV. Not the average face of anything. I will remember you in my heart.