Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day 2010

Over the past four years, I lived in South Africa on two occasions for almost a year-and-a-half in total.

We stayed in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It's a province hard hit with incidents of HIV and AIDS. It's devastating. In 2009, there were 5.6 million people living with HIV according to the 2010 UN AIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic.

It was heartbreaking. Yet I met many who beat the odds.

During our first stint and within months of our arrival, friends celebrated the 50th birthday of Betta. She was their life-long maid. They had known each other during apartheid, the struggle against it, and now after. They are now, of course, dear, dear friends. Betta is black and speaks Sotho and Zulu. She doesn't  speak English. She has seen poverty, violence, crime, segregation and AIDS. For Betta, reaching her 50th year carried great significance, because in South Africa it's reported that the average life expectancy is 49 years.

The UN AIDS Report says that of South Africans aged 15-49, 10-20% are HIV positive. With HIV rates so astonishingly high (10-20%!), large segments of a generation are dying, and children are left orphaned.

I made several documentaries and films that tell stories about HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The projects are close to my heart. There are a couple I'd like to share in this blog. The people within give me hope and propel me forward to continue sharing their stories.

You can find links to my original blog posts below:

Umhambi is about a group of women who find strength, and make an income by creating and selling Little Traveller dolls. Their income generation project is run by the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust. Here is my blog post about Umhambi's selection to the Chicageo International Film Festival.

Journey of Hope is about Sbu Myeni, a woman who is working towards opening a community centre for the orphans in the semi-rural community of her childhood. Here is my blog post first telling Sbu's story.

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