Never Been

My Journey Across South Africa

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Pictures from our trip to Ado Elephant Park yesterday…yes, I saw lions and hippos in addition to many elephants, rhinos, and giraffes!

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Brief Overview of HIV/AIDs in South Africa

In one of my previous posts I had mentioned that I would blog about the visible remnants of the apartheid era that I have encountered thus far during my stay in addition to my experiences at Livingstone Hospital, but I feel as if I should first dedicate a post to addressing the issue of HIV/AIDs in South Africa - it is, after all, the purpose of my trip.  But instead of writing some long, lengthy narrative I am going to attempt to consolidate some of the important aspects of the issue into bullet point-format for your reading pleasure  :P …

  • South Africa currently suffers more than any other country from the HIV/AIDs epidemic with over 34,000,000 people infected nationwide. The seriousness of this statistic is heightened when you consider that there are 33.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS internationally; 22.2 of them in the sub-Saharan region
  • AIDs related deaths in South Africa are estimated to be about 1,000 per day
  • The disease disproportionately affects those who are black, reside in more rural areas, and live below the poverty line.

It is also estimated that:  

  • 41% of pregnant women are HIV positive
  • 41% of university students are HIV positive
  • Adolescents who are becoming sexually active (i.e., 15-18 year olds) are the most likely to contract the disease and run a risk of infection at 75%

Contributing factors to HIV/AIDs’ prevalence:

  • In the ‘90s the AIDs epidemic was spinning out of control internationally, affecting many countries including the U.S.; however, unlike other countries, South Africa was unable to utilize all of its resources to confront the epidemic head on as it was also coping with the end of the apartheid era (similar to segregation and the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.), leaving the virus to fester and spread rapidly across the nation
  • South Africa is a diverse nation (far more diverse than the U.S) composed of countless different cultures, many in which it is not proper, and sometimes not possible (due the lack of synonymous words for certain body parts and the disease), to address the virus, making it even more difficult to communicate information regarding HIV/AIDs; thus, contributing to its prevalence.
  • Because the stigma which surrounds the virus is so strong, many of those infected would rather hide their status than seek medical attention and treatment, such as ARVs. The fear of disclosure also prevents many who are HIV positive from telling those closest to them, including sexual partners, about their status, hindering others’ abilities to protect themselves from the disease.
  • Although U.S. pharmaceutical companies have developed anti-viral medicines to assist and prolong the life of those suffering from HIV/AIDs, until recently, ARVs have been expensive, making access to them difficult for those who are lack money. This situation is exacerbated when you consider that many of the people who have been exposed to the HIV/AIDs virus in South Africa suffer from poverty
  • Because ARVs are a Westernized-medical invention, many of those suffering from the epidemic turn shy away from their use, favoring more traditional (and commonly less effective) methods and approaches for treating the virus. The popularity of alternative methods is fueled by a mistrust of white people and Western notions held by black people;  an effect of the abuse the African (black) people suffered under the white governments in power since the colonization of South Africa  hundreds of year ago until the recent end of apartheid.

Misinformation is has also contributed to the prevalence of HIV/AIDs in South Africa:

  • From 1999 – 2008, under former president Thabo Mbeki, the South African government refuted the scientific consensus on AIDs and denied pregnant women use of ARVs, which could have prevented their unborn children from contracting the disease. It is now estimated that a staggering 365, 000 people lost their lives from this action.
  • The current president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, has also been said to have contributed to the misinformation regarding the epidemic; most notably for his statement during the 2005 court trial in response to the rape charges brought against him, in which he stated that he avoided contracting HIV/AIDs by “taking a shower” after the act. During the time of his statement he was the head of the National AIDS Council.
  • The South African politician Dr. Mantombazana ‘Manto’ Edmie Tshabalala-Msimang (also known as “Dr. Beetroot), who served as the Minister of Health from 1999-2008, is also known for contributing to myths surrounding HIV/AIDs treatment, as she emphasized the use of vegetables like beetroot and garlic over the use of anti-retroviral medicines for treatment. 

 (Sorry if this is hard to read, tumblr hates bullet points)

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Snapshots from South Africa: As of late...At Livingstone Wellness Center

More about our work at Livingstone Hospital, hopefully I will submit my own reflection within the next week…


I have become very comfortable in South Africa and I honestly love every minute. There are moments of frustration and exhaustion but overall, I am very happy. Working at Livingstone Wellness Center with Laura has been somewhat tedious and completely eye-opening. We have assisted in basic…

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I’m falling behind on these updates, but here is a picture of Francios’ trophy room. It still blows my mind that he has Jeffery the Giraffe chilin up on his wall.

I’m falling behind on these updates, but here is a picture of Francios’ trophy room. It still blows my mind that he has Jeffery the Giraffe chilin up on his wall.

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06/30-07/03/2011 (cont.)

It is becoming more of a chore to update this blog as so many things continue to happen - I feel as if I cannot keep up (gaaahh!)…So here is my attempt to finish updating about the rest of last weekend before the upcoming one arrives and I have even more things to write about…

However, before I begin describing Saturday, I just remembered something I meant to include in my previous post that occurred on Friday in Grahamstown as Emilee and I were walking back from the vendors to meet our group…

As we began to draw closer to the parking lot where the bus was supposed to be, we encountered a group of young teenaged boys begging for money. This is not an uncommon occurrence in South Africa, but is neither remarkable to me as in America many times homeless people will also stand outside of big events to ask for money. However, the manner in which it was done was something I have never witnessed before and hope to never again: as we approached the boys from across the street we saw a little puppy lying on the ground, eyes closed, who appeared to be dead. But then we saw the puppy struggle to move; he seemed weakened and possibly drugged (it was obvious he was not starving as he seemed to be a healthy size). Spotting our horrified faces, the boys picked up the puppy, which began yelping in pain at the mere touch of one of the boys, and relentlessly chased after us, yelling, “Sissies! Our doggie needs food! We need money to buy him cans of food! Give us money! We beg for him! Not for us!” At first, I was disgusted with the boys and had to fight the urge to slap them and take off with the dog running. But now, as I reflect on this situation, I view it as a disturbing, but very real indication of the cycle of abuse and poverty many of the people in this country struggle with daily; many times these street children have nothing and are used as ploys for money by their elders who are around the corner, watching, in order to feed their addictions. Therefore, why should the street kids, such as these boys, have respect for any other living thing when they have been shown none themselves?

Although my Grahamstown visit was wonderful and good representation of how receptive and kind the people of South Africa are as a whole, instances such as these jolt me back to the stark reality that this nation is still a third world country and many of those residing here struggle to survive in the face of poverty and HIV/AIDs.

Now on a more uplifting note…

Our Saturday stay on the farm in Adelaide was the most action packed, beginning with an early trip up and down the mountains (or big hills, I am still unsure how to differentiate) while crammed into a back of a truck. Although this was complete hell on my poor back, I did not regret the ride once we were given the opportunity to climb to the top of one of the mountain-hills. I have always had the secret urge to climb to the top of a big hill, such as one of the ones I see when I am driving into Athens, but I never even dreamt I would do such a thing, especially in Africa out of all places.  As I looked down on the few tiny farm houses and animals herds below and slowly became eyelevel with the surrounding mountain-hills, I felt as if I was experiencing something straight out of the NatGeo channel (if this isn’t a sad indicator of how much television I watch, I don’t know what is haha).  One hundred pictures and forty-minutes later we made out way down the mountain-hill for another bumpy ride to find a spot to picnic at, after which we began to head home. However, the fun did not stop there for us in Francios’ (one of the other farmers) truck; spotting an ostrich, he decided to take us off road to chase it! Taking off with no warning, I was too busy holding on for dear life to film it but it was still one of the greatest moments of the weekend.

Once we arrived back at Francios’ house, we were immediately ushered out into the barn for shooting practice. Being a clumsy person by nature who also happens to hate loud noises, shooting a rifle (or any type of gun for that matter) has never really been a goal of mine but, going along with the weekend’s theme of “why the heck not? I am in Africa”, I mustered up the courage to do it. I also figured a man who built an entire room dedicated to his trophies, i.e. taxademery-ed animals he has killed that includes a giraffe (!!!!), and has an entire safe dedicated to his various collection of guns would probably be the best person to learn how to shoot from. All this aside, I was still shaking just thinking about shooting at our target (a cardboard box, mind you), so I could only handle doing it once haha. Surprisingly, though, I actually hit within the circle and no one died.  As it was then starting to get dark, we headed back inside for drinks and horderves. While waiting for dinner, we enjoyed watching a rugby game on television followed by the South African version of American Idol, which is just as bad as the American one (surprise). After an amazing steak dinner, we headed back to Marnus and Winnie’s place to sleep. ..

I was intending to include brief synopsis here on the visible remnants of apartheid that I also experienced over the weekend but I do not have time as we are going to a rugby game tonight and I need to get ready, so I will save it for another post. I also wanted to update on the work Emilee and I are doing at Livingston Hopsital’s Wellness Centre, which is a government-funded clinic devoted to serving the HIV/AIDS population in the surrounding area, but I will save that for another day as well. But if you are curious and cannot wait, I will re-blog Emilee’s post about it so you can see a  little about Livingston! 

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I’m not surprised but I never feel quite prepared
Conor Oberst, “Another Travellin’ Song”