By Hopewell Chin’ono
Today is World AIDS Day, a time when we should all reflect on the titanic battle fought to keep this menace at bay from wiping us off the face of the earth.
Eleven years ago, I made the multi-award winning documentary film, Pain in My Heart, which looked at the lives of two HIV and AIDS carriers.
One of the patients had access to antiviral medication, and the other one was condemned to die living two young children.
I made this film in 2007, it featured nephrologist and medicine scholar, Professor Chiratidzo Ellen Ndhlovu who teaches at the University of Zimbabwe medical school.
As we grapple with today’s economic challenges in our country, we should remember that they have a direct link to HIV infection rates.
When young women become economically vulnerable as they are today in Zimbabwe, they lose their agency to negotiate for safer sex.
Each time that happens, HIV infection rates spiral out of control as the only thing available to them to earn a living will be their body.
Our country did a lot in pursuit of containing this viral scourge, but the lack of economic stability today threatens to undo these all-important gains that took a lot of effort by both our medical fraternity and the international community to resolve.
Today we have a nation that is breathing a huge sign of relief after many of us lived in fear of receiving another phone call, telling us that yet another loved one had once more been taken by this deadly viral condition.
There is no family that was spared from this medical tragedy, so as we reflect today on its pain and suffering that it threw at all of us, we hope that those with the keys to making decisions for this nation will also realize that economics is not just about figures and big words.
It is also about real human beings who become the victims of any badly thought out economic policies and the result can be more deadly than ordinarily envisaged.
In pursuit of survival, many young women turn to prostitution and some are sexually abused and end up carriers of HIV and many other sexually transmittable diseases.
So for every zany idea that is implemented as policy by our government, there are graves that remain a testimony of that incompetence to govern whenever it happens.
I attach the documentary film Pain in My Heart here for us to see the long and torturous road that we have traveled since 2007 in trying to contain this medical tragedy, which still doesn’t have a cure yet to this very day almost 40 years since its first discovery.
Many lost their parents to HIV and AIDS resulting in grandparents becoming parents once more, and where there were no grandparents, we ended up with child headed families.
To this very day, those scars are at times still fresh as many innocent kids lost the opportunity to get access to a good education and a better life.
That loss manifested itself through economic poverty for them and a failure to unshackle the chains of abject poverty resulting in more infections.
We are still on fragile territory, a reversal of our economic fortunes will simply translate in yet another outbreak of infections, and all those years of hard work will be lost to the wind.
So as we reflect today on HIV and Aids, we should remember that corruption has a direct link to these medical conditions, where money is stolen from government coffers, medicines to treat the sick become unavailable and ordinary and vulnerable citizens die.
Resources to help the orphans left by the victims of HIV and Aids become depleted too due to corruption, so those who are corrupt have a direct link to the deaths of our people.
Pain in My Heart
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.
He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa leadership Institute.
Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.
Hopewell can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @daddyhope