I think South Africa is in denial. This applies to me too.
South African AIDS activist
When I heard there was a village in the North West Province where almost every household is affected by HIV and AIDS I thought “yeah, sure, it can’t be that bad”.
But it was – and is. I’ll be writing more about that in my next blog.
There’s been a fair amount of coverage about the South African government downplaying the HIV epidemic. But it’s not just HIV, it’s poverty in the country in general.
Urban dwellers like me don’t think that media reporting of ‘poverty-stricken’ Africa applies to Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town – the cosmopolitan cities we call home.
So when I was asked to canvass opinion on my fellow South Africans’ expectations of the G8 Summit, I was surprised to find that this denial isn’t universal...
My cousin lives in a rural part of KwaZulu-Natal – one of the regions hardest hit by both HIV and poverty. She’s well informed about the Africa agenda of this year’s G8, and hopes the Summit will bring some sort of relief to poverty-stricken communities in South Africa, especially those with high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
Although I was surprised that she knew all about the G8 summit, it made me proud both as a South African and as her cousin to hear her say this.
Personally, I’m waiting to hear exactly how much the G8 countries are planning to donate towards African development and how this money will be utilised by the National Aids Unit, the government body that coordinates donations towards fighting HIV. Then again, the G8 has made promises before and hasn’t necessarily delivered on them.
That’s the view of Ntombikayise Sithole, a health worker and volunteer at a home-based care centre in Mpumalanga, one of the country’s poorest provinces. She says: “During the G8 Summit in 2005, G8 countries promised to donate billions in the fight against poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa. Some of that money was never given to the relevant countries.” She feels that the G8 is merely paying Africa lip service.
“Several countries were blamed for the shortfall but nothing happened afterwards,” she continues. “I am hoping as an African and person who witnesses what the HIV pandemic does to the nation on a daily basis that the outcomes of the 2007 Summit will prosper. We need the G8’s help in the fight against poverty and HIV in Africa.”