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December 2003
Our Man in Zambia : Aids in Zambia
volunteers raise awareness of HIV and AIDS
Volunteers raise awareness of HIV and Aids.

No-one can live or even visit Zambia without being touched by the devastating effect of AIDS.

Jamie Baldwin

SEE ALSO
Our Man in Zambia

Our Man in Zambia : Part Two

Our Man in Zambia : Part Three

Our Man in Zambia : Part Four
WEB LINKS
VSO

Jamie Baldwin
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FACTS

Zambia:
Population: 10.8 million (UN, 2003)
Capital: Lusaka
Major language: English (official), Bemba, Lozi, Nyanja, Tonga
Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs, Hinduism, Islam
Life expectancy: 33 years (men), 32 years (women) (UN)
Leader: Levy Mwanawasa
Monetary unit: 1 Kwacha = 100 ngwee
Main exports: Copper, minerals, tobacco Average annual income: US $320 (World Bank, 2001) Internet domain: .zm
International dialling code: +260

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Officially, about one in five of the population is HIV positive, which itself is extreme. Unofficially, it is estimated that more like 45% of the population have the virus, which is catastrophic. Not everyone is infected, but without doubt everyone is affected by the epidemic.

Jamie Baldwin
Jamie learns to play the drums with a young local.

World AIDS Day on December 1st is one of the most significant days in the Zambian calendar. It offers all those involved with HIV/AIDS the opportunity to raise awareness to individuals, villages, communities and chiefdoms about the disease. And it is often the teenagers, the next generation who are forced to grow up far too quickly, that are targeted.

The Anglican Children's Project in Chelston where we live, and where Alice works, is just the sort of place where children are learning about AIDS in a proactive way. These include orphans whose parents have died of the disease and whom can no longer be supported by relatives.

Zambians are proud people and ten years ago orphanages like ACP did not exist, children went to live with relatives. But today, there are too many orphans and too little money for communities to support them.

So it was reassuring to see kids huddling around reading the leaflets on HIV and condom use, concentrating on the diagrams of various parts of the human anatomy out of curiosity.

Five years ago, a church project in Zambia would not be allowing this to take place on their grounds. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and there is evidence that it does now seem to be working. For instance, the number of girls between 15 - 19 becoming infected has reduced slightly for the first time.

On a lighter note, the sports day which the project held on World AIDS Day, allowed the children to sample the fine British art of jumping around in sacks and balancing eggs on spoons. We even had adult races - which, incidentally, is a turning point in one's life taking part in the adult races of a Sports Day - much to the amusement of the kids. Needless to say everyone was a winner on the day.

It was good to see children from the local community joining in. Perhaps also inspiring the bizarre, yet welcoming, sight of Oprah Winfrey who actual came to Chelston a few days later to promote HIV/AIDS awareness.

It maybe corny but it is working and it is changing the Zambian attitude towards HIV, condoms, marriage and sex, even within the church. And it is as much Zambians responsibility to talk about the epidemic as it is ours, as volunteers, to promote it.

I leave you with a quote from a fellow volunteer who actually challenged the Vice President's wife no less, who herself believes abstinence and faithfulness, and not condoms, are the only way forward.

My friend kindly inquired: "So how many wives does your husband have?" The implication being that many high powered men in Zambia have several girlfriends without the knowledge of their wives. The Vice President's wife was speechless.

PS: I am writing this on my laptop battery during another power cut, and ironically by candlelight.

Local children take part in their sports day.


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