The sea of gravestones near Zonkizizwe was almost unimaginable. I would not have believed it myself if I had not seen it firsthand. This scene conveys the real implications and impacts of HIV/AIDS on a health care system and a country that has been stripped, divided, and neglected by apartheid.
While I often asked why there is no doctor, I was able to track down a traditional medicinal doctor who seemed to see no patients as well as the private clinic doctor who did not seem to care about providing real health care to the residents of Zonke. Writing has been done on where there is no doctor and what to do when there is no doctor, but the number one question in South Africa is why there is no doctor. This question is answered through history: apartheid, oppression, denial, and failure to recognize a crisis. The reality of apartheid health policies continuing to affect Black populations and responses to HIV/AIDS can be seen firsthand in the Zonkizizwe informal settlement.
Health was a weapon of apartheid and it worked. Denying medical access and training to the Black majority has kept the population in submission even 16 years after the end of apartheid. The critical period of 1993-2000 saw the new democratic government with its hands tied behind its back. There was no way that the health care system could be so dramatically scaled-up to meet the human and social needs of the HIV/AIDS crisis. As Seedat stated in Crippling a Nation, 1984, “Health in South Africa is inseparable from the economic, political and social structure of the apartheid state.” The health and HIV/AIDS realities that can be seen Zonkizizwe are direct result of apartheid’s legacy. HIV/AIDS in South Africa is not a direct result of apartheid policies, but the impact of HIV/AIDS and the health care system of South Africa is still inseparable from its apartheid past.
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