Back to earth with a bump

Back in the barn where the wedding reception was held, a couple of days after the big day, with the marquee and relatives gone, I had a sobering text from a friend in Mozambique. He’s out there with the Peace Corps and has been teaching for the last 2 years. A big part of his job has been getting involved with HIV/AIDS awareness conferences, and he’s just about to start a big theatre project doing the same kind of work.

His text read:
“Almost made it 2 years without friends dying of AIDS. Now my 25 year old best friend died and his family won’t admit it was AIDS that killed him. This is fucked up!”

What do you say? I’ve deleted my reply, so I can’t say exactly what I sent back, but it was probably along the lines of “I’m so sorry” and “I’ll pray for them”, or similar statements that are pretty useless in that situation.

He replied:

“It’s so 1984 it’s scary. Cos everyone can spout off the stats but do they practice? NO!”

So true. We do all know the stats, the causes, the effects, the prevention…
I just looked up the stats for Mozambique.

Adults age 15-49 with HIV/AIDS, 2005 – 1,600,000
Adult HIV prevalence (%), 2005 – 16.1
Women age 15-49 with HIV/AIDS, 2005 – 960,000
Children with HIV/AIDS, 2005 – 140,000
AIDS orphans (ages 0-17), 2005 – 510,000
AIDS deaths, 2005 – 140,000
Source: UNAIDS

And what about us in the UK?

Adults age 15-49 with HIV/AIDS, 2005 – 67,000
Adult HIV prevalence (%), 2005 – 0.2
Women age 15-49 with HIV/AIDS, 2005 – 21,000
Children with HIV/AIDS, 2005 – nd
AIDS orphans (ages 0-17), 2005 – nd
AIDS deaths, 2005

Source: UNAIDS

There’s not even data for AIDS orphans in the UK, yet there were 510,000 in Moz in 2005! That’s a very stark comparison.

No wonder my friend’s so angry – his latest blog post ends with:
“WHY IS THIS FUCKING STIGMA THERE THAT HIV/AIDS ONLY HAPPENS TO OTHERS!!!! IT DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN TO SOMEONE FAR AWAY!! People, we’ve got to talk about this disease, realize it’s not going anywhere fast and then beat the shit out of it. Please…..”