vvocf education fund


17 June 2008
Sphe and Nhlanhla helped me learn some more Zulu today with even more Swahili similarities coming to light. The Bantu peoples spread from central to east and south Africa, thankfully they kept the same language structure and vocabulary similarities.

Today we began the VVOCF Education Fund! We had the idea of collecting the 5 cent pieces that everyone throws on the ground to be collected and used as a way to provide educational scholarships for the VVOCF students. The four teams will have a competition with the winner getting some prize determined later – the students in secondary will be able to apply for the scholarship later. This will be a way for the children to invest in their own education while providing ground to approach other investors overseas or in more wealthy neighborhoods/ SA businesses. Funding cannot solely come from the outside so this is a great start. “Our future is in our hands” education campaign begins today!

The on-the-ground of running a project and NPO is exciting and a great experience for me to see to be able to find out how SCOUT BANANA can be most helpful to our own projects later. Linking education with health development will be important. Giving youth a voice in-country is just as important as giving developed youth a voice to help other youth.

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why there is no doctor: the impact of hiv/aids in the post-apartheid health care system of south africa

This is a series of posts based on the lengthy research paper that I completed as part of my “field experience” requirement for my International Relations major at James Madison College, as well as my Global Area Studies: Africa major and International Development specialization through the College of Social Science at Michigan State University. I was supported by the Young People For internship program as well as my friends and family. My field experience was completed as a three month long internship at Vumundzuku-bya Vana ‘Our Children’s Future’ (VVOCF) in the peri-urban settlement of Zonkizizwe, just south of Johannesburg. My tasks as an intern were to conduct health classes, run the HIV/AIDS Peer Educator courses, help with day-to-day programming, as well as assist in the nonprofit development and paperwork. The highlight of my work was organizing an HIV Testing Day with the clinics for the whole community. In all 80 people were tested in an area where stigma around HIV/AIDS and testing is very high. Please feel free to send comments and recommendations to help improve my work. Thanks!

Index:
i. Why are there No Doctors?
Academic Paper:
1. Introduction to an Epidemic
2. The Health System via Apartheid
3. Cleaning Black Spots of off a White Land?
4. High-Risk Migration Patterns
5. Scapegoating “tropical workers”
6. HIV/AIDS in South Africa
7. Denial is the First Step
8. What happened to Reconstruction and Development?
9. Post-Apartheid Health: the Burden Continues to get Heavier
10. Harsh Realities in Zonkizizwe (part 1)
11. Harsh Realities in Zonkizizwe (part 2)
12. Conclusion & Works Cited
13. Appendix A: Timeline of Health Care and HIV/AIDS in South Africa

why there is no doctor: conclusion & works cited (12)

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.

Works Cited
Beinart, William. “Labour Migrancy and Rural Production: Pondoland c.1900-1950.” In
Black Villagers in an Industrial Society, edited by Philip Mayer, pp. 81-108. Cape Town: Oxford University Press. 1980.

Boseley, Sarah. “Mbeki Aids denial ‘caused 300,000 deaths.” Guardian News UK. 26 November 2008. .

Chirwa, Wiseman Chijere. “Aliens and AIDS in Southern Africa: The Malawi-South Africa Debate.” The Royal African Society. African Affairs 97:53-79, 1998.

E. O. Nightingale, K. Hannibal, H. J. Geiger, L. Hartmann, R. Lawrence and J. Spurlock. “Apartheid Medicine. Health and Human Rights in South Africa.” Committee on Health and Human Rights, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 264 No. 16, October 24, 1990.

‘Forced removals in South Africa 1977-1978’, paper prepared by IDAF for the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid, No. 44/78, Oct. 1978, p.9.

“HIV and other STDs. Chapter 3, Part 1” Population Reports. Population Information Program, Center for Communication Programs, The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Volume XXIV, Number 3. November, 1996.
http://www.infoforhealth.org/pr/J45/j45chap3_1.shtml.

“HIV & AIDS in South Africa: The history of AIDS in South Africa.” Avert.
http://www.avert.org/aidssouthafrica.htm.

J Yawitch, Betterment. “The myth of homeland agriculture” SAIRR: Johannesburg, 1981, p.86.

Kon, Zeida R. and Nuha Lackan. “Ethnic Disparities in Access to Care in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” American Journal of Public Health. December 2008, Vol. 98, No. 12.

Lodge, Tom. “The RDP: Delivery and Performance” in “Politics in South Africa: From Mandela to Mbeki”, David Philip:Cape Town & Oxford, 2003.

Lurie, Mark N., Brian G Williams, Khangelani Zuma, David Mkaya-Mwamburi, Geoff P Garnett, Michael D Sweat, Joel Gittelsohn, Salim SAbdool Karim. AIDS:17 October 2003 – Volume 17 – Issue 15 – pp 2245-2252.

Packard, Randall. White Plague, Black Labor: Tuberculosis and the political economy of health and disease in South Africa. University of California Press, 1989.

Palitsza, Kristin. “A Burden that Will Only Become Heavier.” Inter Press Service News Agency. May 28, 2006. http://www.ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=33396.

Posel, Dorrit. “Have migration patterns in post-apartheid South Africa changed?” 4-7 June 2003.
http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:4Oor9pRwaTkJ:pum.princeton.edu/pumconferenc e/papers/1-Posel.pdf+the+economic+of+apartheid,+labor+migrations&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a.

Seedat, Aziza. Crippling a Nation: Health in Apartheid South Africa. International Defence Aid Fund for Southern Africa, London, April 1984.

“The Demographic Impact of HIV/AIDS in South Africa – National and Provincial Indicators for 2006” Centre for Actuarial Research, South African Medical Research Council and Actuarial Society of South Africa. November 2006.

“The uprooting of millions, forced removals.” For their Triumphs’ and Tears. ANC, 1983.
http://www.anc.org.za/books/triumphs_part1.html#3back1.

UNAIDS 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, Chapter 4: The impact of AIDS on people and societies
http://www.unaids.org/en/KnowledgeCentre/HIVData/GlobalReport/2006/default.asp.

UNAIDS 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic. http://www.unaids.org/en/KnowledgeCentre/HIVData/GlobalReport/2008/.

Appendix A

why there is no doctor: harsh realities in zonkizizwe (part 2) (11)


(photo: Zonke Testing Day banner on the back of a van used to transport people to the clinics)

While working in Zonke, a fact that shocked me was that an HIV-positive person can only access ARV treatment [for free, otherwise it is very expensive] if their CD4 count is below 200. This is official South African government policy and numerous studies have shown that accessing treatment earlier has greater long-term health benefits as ARVs are meant to be taken life-long. A World Health Organization (WHO) study in 2008 outlined four clinical stages of HIV progression. The WHO recommends that when a patient hits stage three with a CD4 count below 350, life-long ARV treatment should be started. Starting patients earlier negates complications later. However, in South Africa once the CD4 count goes above 200 again, treatment is stopped, which allows for greater complications and the need for new strains of ARVs. This year a push to increase the CD4 count threshold for treatment was rejected by the National Health Council on the grounds of affordability (85).

Prof Robin Wood, director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town, is among the clinicians who have been calling for the South African government to raise the standard of treatment set out in its guidelines. However, he pointed out that better guidelines would be meaningless without improving the quality of care and access to services (86).

Professor Wood brings everything back to perspective. Anyone can call for greater access and more treatment, but if there is no distribution system for health services and care then what is the point. It would be like having a big supply of pizzas and no delivery drivers. This is the problem in many former “homelands,” townships, and informal settlements. There are inadequate or non-existent delivery systems for health services and treatment and so in areas where the HIV/AIDS crisis is most critical, there is no system to address the problem.

Today was the 2nd half of Prevention in the HIV/AIDS course. The kids are incredibly receptive with questions, comments, and the desire to learn more. We will be covering Treatment and resources this Friday. Celumusa did a great job of translating and really getting the course lessons through to the kids. Later in the evening she talked with us – her passion and drive to get people tested and aware and knowledgeable is amazing and so admirable with all she has been through. She is so excited about a Zonke testing day, the HIV/AIDS class, working with the staff and community to make more people talk and not be afraid to talk. Today she told the kids that she was HIV positive and they all did not believe her at all – they asked her to cross her heart that she was not lying. I could tell from the first class that the kids were learning much more than they had before beyond what HIV and AIDS stands for (87).

Much of the work at the center and the work that needs to happen in Zonke is HIV testing. Once tested you can learn how to take care of yourself, your children, and your community. When I asked Celumusa why people don’t test she said that people don’t know that they can live with HIV. So many people are involved in risky behaviors, she said, they have family members die from HIV/AIDS, but don’t test themselves. She also noted that pregnant mothers are tested and are given tablets, but not told their status. Testing is critical and we began working on this by planning a Zonke Testing Day for July 31st.

As I began organizing for the Testing Day, I came into contact with more of the health services available in Zonke. There are a number of traditional doctors and surgeries in Zonke. I can only imagine that this is because there is such a lack of other health services. Celumusa and others have bad perceptions of traditional medicine: evil, it kills people, and the traditional healers are crazy people. I was still having no luck finding any doctors, until I finally caught a traditional doctor in his office. He ran a clinic that was more Western than others and was supposedly trained by the government in traditional healing, but his office was empty every time I visited – no patients (88). Why are there no doctors?

Across the road from his office was a private clinic run by a group of Indian doctors. I also had a difficult time finding them, as did many Zonke residents. I was able to visit the private clinic only when Celumusa had to schedule an appointment for her baby. The private clinic had become her last option that she was sure to see a doctor. This says a lot for the health care system in Zonke (and other overcrowded settlements and townships left over from apartheid era) that the poor will pay to see a private doctor because the government health services are unreliable. Celumusa said they always give injections at the private clinic. Yet again I wonder about the quality of care. The clinics give painkiller tablets and the private clinics give injections (antibiotics?). If care is inadequate and access to ARV medication is beyond the ability of most, then the extended scenes of cemeteries become less shocking.

In the past 2 weeks, 3 people have passed because of HIV and AIDS that we have been directly informed of because the Buthelezi family has been close to the deceased – a father, an aunt, and a neighbor. Living in an HIV positive community is so different when you can fully understand the impact of just one life (89).

It was as if I had seen the walking dead. The prospect of death is so intertwined with life in Zonkizizwe that the author who wrote that South Africans attend more funerals than weddings was supported by my experiences this summer. The hardest hitting example was with the passing of the father of one of the families at the center. Three of the children attended the center. The oldest was 17 years old and was taking care of her frail father as he withered away, making sure her younger brother and sister were going to school, and attending school herself. This small family had already lost their mother to HIV/AIDS. The burden of disease was not met by the health care system or any the government response. The burden of disease rests completely on those who are affected and they do not have the resources to help themselves.

A critical aspect of combating the effects of HIV/AIDS in South Africa is education. As one of my goals over summer I developed an HIV/AIDS curriculum, based off of the Peace Corps Lifeskills curriculum, that the youth could share with the friends and families as peer educators. The spreading of knowledge is a powerful first step in giving people the resources they need to prevent HIV/AIDS. It is especially important when there exists no other means to access this information. The Zonkizizwe schools are under-funded and teachers are under-trained. This translates to the lack of a teacher for the Lifeskills curriculum and therefore the lack of knowledge on sexual health and HIV/AIDS. VVOCF is beginning to fulfill a service where the government is horribly failing.

All of our kids were tested, plus about 20 others. In all over 60 people tested. […] The community and guardian support was incredible. There were a few positives that we expected from already young mothers […] and unexpected bad news surprise […] Many good surprises came out of the day as we learned of many negative cases that were expected to confirm our worst nightmares (90).

Year – Number of HIV Tests (*from clinic 2)
2006 – 128
2007 – 246
2008 – 412

The success of solutions driven by citizens was best evidenced by the culmination of the HIV/AIDS peer education courses, health classes, and the death of a father in an area wide testing day. I had taken the lead in organizing the testing day with the clinics, MSU study abroad volunteers, and various local organizations. Because of the stigma attached and sensitivity of the issue I was a bit nervous when the day came. July 31st 2008, the first Zonke Testing Day was a day of success fueled by the youth at the center. And while the numbers of people testing have made steady increases, the reality remains that the majority of those who need treatment after testing will not have access. Many in the generation just older than these youth mocked or scoffed at the testing day, but our kids were set on it.

We really are building a new generation of freedom fighters – not afraid of stigma, talking about sex, ready to be tested, and not about to turn a blind to HIV/AIDS. These young people stood today with a powerful support base of each other evidenced by yesterday’s action and the larger community is taking notice. The youth continue to give me hope and pride in being allowed to take part in such a community action (91).

The realities of Zonkizizwe paint a vivid picture of the effects of apartheid on health care for the majority of the South African population. The health system operating in Zonke is the ground zero of the failures of post-apartheid government policy to address the far-reaching impact of HIV/AIDS.

Notes:
85. “South Africa: Funding shortfall threatens treatment programme.” IRIN/PlusNews. 2 April 2009. http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportId=83762
86. Ibid.
87. Hill, Alex B. Journal Entry. 30 June 2008.
88. Ibid, 17 July 2008.
89. Ibid, 6 June 2008.
90. Ibid, 31 July 2008.
91. Ibid.

Coming next: Conclusion

modernizing traditional remedies


(photo: Traditional surgery, not in the sense of cutting people open – just means it is a place of traditional medicine practice.)

6 June 2008
There hasn’t been much that I have cared to write on for the past few days. I am building an HIV/AIDS curriculum for peer education from the Peace Corps Life Skills curriculum. The Peace Corps program is very good with excellent activities and info. The classes were supposed to start today, but will be pushed back a week because kids didn’t show up on time – so it became freedom of expression day with singing, drawing, and poetry reading. But I am excited to start and contribute to youth leadership development in such a critical and controversial subject.

In the past 2 weeks, 3 people have passed because of HIV and AIDS that we have been directly informed of because the Buthelezi family has been close to the deceased – a father, an aunt, and a neighbor. Living in an HIV positive community is so different when you can fully understand the impact of just one life.


(photo: Traditional doctor’s office, 2 years of formal training)

Celumusa told us today that all the health clinics do is give out painkiller tablets for everything. She often just goes to the chemist (pharmacist) to tell them what is wrong and to get something that will actually help. I inquired about the herbalist and surgeon – same building that we passed in Zone 3 – Celumusa is skeptical of the herbalist. Today she returned from Sandonga with a paper flyer for a “traditional” healer who claims to help with 65 diseases including HIV/AIDS. Supposedly the South African government gives witch doctors certificates in the hopes of finding a cure for HIV/AIDS. Yet another example of their [the government’s] absurdity. Mr. Ndaba told us that Mbeki and Zuma are supposedly coming to Zonke for the upcoming elections. That should be interesting.

Reflections 6 July 2009:
This is a very different picture of traditional medicine than what I saw and studied in Ghana. Here traditional medicinal practice is more associated with the spirits and evil (muti in isiZulu) as opposed to healing processes that are trusted to work, like I saw in Ghana. There were plenty of stories about the frightening things that might happen to small children who upset a Sangoma (“witch” doctor), etc. However, I did see some traditional medicinal practices being employed by the grandmother (Goko) and mother. One such traditional remedy turned modern was using a ball of toothpaste or soap (inserted into the anus) to cleanse the body. Nothing like a little soap to clean out your system of sickness. Regardless of the views I received from neighbors and community members about traditional medicine and doctors there were plenty of locations to visit the practitioners of traditional medicine.

why there is no doctor: harsh realities in zonkizizwe (part 1) (10)


(photo: Clinic #1 in Zonkizizwe, serving zones 1-4)

From May to August of 2008, I interned with an organization called Vumundzuku-bya Vana ‘Our Children’s Future’ (VVOCF). The organization is located in Zonkizizwe (Zonke), an informal settlement south of Johannesburg closest to Germiston. The informal settlement is best described as a peri-urban area much like a shantytown with convenience stores. Some live at a lesser degree of poverty than others, but everyone is impacted by HIV/AIDS.

I […] learned more about the extent of HIV/AIDS in Zonke. The intern coordinator reminded us that the statistic of students at MSU that have an STD is 1 in 4. We are only lucky that HIV/AIDS did not enter the mainstream population. Here in Zonke 1 in 4 people is HIV positive. The family at the center is more so affected by HIV/AIDS and now they work to care for children who come the center affected by the virus. There is still a very high stigma and a terribly ineffective ARV program. Many people refuse to get tested or even consider the idea. Each child at the center either has HIV […] has lost parents from AIDS or related illnesses or has not yet been tested to know. There are many who should be tested, but are not. […] It has come to my attention that much of what the government does here looks good on paper and on banners, but there is a huge, massive disconnect in implementation (78).

Zonkizizwe is a snapshot of post-apartheid health care development failures. It was founded when a group of displaced people set up shacks on a farmer’s land so that they could live closer to potential places of work. Many times the South African government tried to remove them, but they kept rebuilding. This is a story different than that of the Black townships or Bantustan “homelands.” Zonkizizwe was an area not meant to be inhabited by anyone, let alone poor Blacks. Understandably the story of health care here is one of an even greater lack of access. Informal settlements had no budgets of their own to even attempt to build their own health infrastructure and even if they did it would likely have been destroyed during forced removals. Under apartheid, health services would have been incredibly difficult to come by.

Everyone waves from their steel-corrugated shacks, children smile and get excited, parents and elders are welcoming – looking out over the shanty town roof tops that extend as far as the eye can see in each direction, you can’t help but wonder that within this poverty and desolation mixed with laughter and happiness – what potential can be harnessed, what community action can be inspired to make South Africa’s future brighter by and for those who live here (79).

My goals as an intern with VVOCF were HIV/AIDS education, HIV/AIDS peer educator training, and assistance with nonprofit organizational development. I was very glad to be able to focus my strengths and interests in the work I did. I also worked to formulate a rough community health assessment based on my interactions with people at the VVOCF center, neighbors, visits to the clinics, and interactions with Zonkizizwe residents.

Now Zonkizizwe has two primary health care clinics to serve its roughly 250,000 people. Health services are all free through government funding, including immunizations and treatments. However, the issue does not become access to treatments, but rather quality of care. The director of VVOCF, Celumusa, said that all the health clinics do is give out painkiller tablets for everything (80). She said she often just goes to the chemist [pharmacist] to tell them what is wrong and get something that will actually help. This appears to be a direct outcome of apartheid health policy. The lack of trained medical professionals, notably doctors, leaves local health workers with no better option than handing out painkillers. Quite possibly the training of these health workers remains inadequate as well. Zonke is an area much in need of the RDP’s action, but all that can be seen here are RDP building supplies for new houses.

“You can see people die, sitting at Natal-spruit.” – Celumusa (81)

The closest hospital to Zonke is in Natal-spruit, about a 30-40 minute taxi ride away. If you live in Zonke, this is the closest place to get ARV medications since the clinics are “not certified” yet to distribute (82). There is another hospital nearby, but the taxi fare is more costly and it takes longer to get there. Residents of Zonke don’t necessarily have the time or money to take a day to travel to the hospital even if it is critical to their health. Those who go to Natal-spruit notice a different level of care. People die waiting, people in great pain are not attended, people in need of good health care cannot access it. At Heidelberg I was told the staff rush to help you and are much more caring (83). The Natal-spruit hospital is set to be closed soon and a new hospital will be built in Extension 6, which is in Sandonga, much closer to Zonke. Maybe with this new hospital the level of care and access to care will increase, especially in regards to ARVs accessibility.

Notes:
78. Hill, Alex B. Journal Entry. 15 May 2008.
79. Ibid, 13 May 2008.
80. Ibid, 6 June 2008.
81. Ibid, 29 May 2008.
82. Ibid, 10 June 2008.
83. Ibid.

Coming next: Harsh Realities in Zonkizizwe (part 2)

between first and third: conflicting world desires


(photo: Global Worship Center Vosloorus, South Africa – home to the black elites and british neo-missionary colonizers)

This is a topic that I have been thinking about for a very long time in relation to my development studies. While in South Africa this became extremely evident as I sought a more simplified life closer to people and many of the people I encountered sought a life that could be had in the country I had just left. What follows will be based on the noted and bullet points that I made on 2 June 2008.

First’s desire to return to simplicity:
– be unburdened by technology, communication, and fast-paced life
– experience difference that is removed
– leave 1st behind/ out of mind for some time (vacation)
– something missing from 1st –> true community, self-discovery

Third’s desire to gain complication?
– technology, materials, cars, Ipod
– false ideas of US –> “nigger,” media, hip hop, gangsterism
– leave 3rd behind in pursuit of new opportunity/ life (forget past)
– something missing (adequate schools, health, family, country)

13 October 2008 Reflections

Those to travel to ‘developing’ countries, who experience poverty, and who realize that there is a better way seek to simplify their lives, this is the goal of a conscious ‘first’ worlder. I sought to be unburdened by technology and communication and the fast-paced life. In the ‘third’ world I have experienced a difference that is all but removed from the ‘first’ – or rather attempts are made to hide the difference: poverty, lack of, etc. I wanted to leave the ‘first’ behind, put it out of mind for a time. In the ‘first’ I always feel as if something is missing; true sense of community is gone and what else. In the ‘first’ it is so easy to be wrapped up in society and systems and just the way things are, that opportunity for self-discovery is negated.

So if the goal of the ‘first’ is to achieve simplicity. Is it the goal of the ‘third’ to gain complication? This is a long running debate within the development field among other fields of study. The ‘third’ seeks technology, cars, MP3 players, and the material things that I tend to leave behind. The ‘third’ holds false ideas of the ‘first’ (and vice versa), but the ‘third’ does not have the opportunity as the ‘first’ does to engage in world discovery. Many people in the ‘third’ world want to leave it all behind in pursuit of new opportunity offered by the ‘first.’ There is also something that is missing in the ‘third,’ but that tends to come at a higher cost, it is much more than self-actualization and discovery. What is lacking is health care systems, schools, infrastructure, family structure (orphans of disease and war), and adequate living necessities.

The conflicting world desires between the ‘first’ and the ‘third’ leave a hole unfilled. Many argue that through development world desires are made to conform as everyone seeks a life of happiness and wealth through materials.

3 June 2008
Sunday we went to church with Thuli, a friend of Celumusa’s, who she met at the Library. Thuli is a wealthy South African, went to University and her husband works for the UN or the government or something. We were to meet some good people to help the center at her church and a social worker.

We entered an incredibly live [musical] arrangement with a very vibrant choir. The Global Worship Center; the first thing I noticed was that everyone had a BMW, Mercedes, new Toyota, etc. This was the secluded enclave of wealthy South Africans; the nu-riche of South Africa. The pastor and founder was there this Sunday “out of his busy schedule” and he said, “I like to show-off at church!” Church is where you must show-off. It seems he founded this wealthy enterprise on his own love of music and dance (and fame). We learned at the invitation only lunch with him afterwards that he studied Chemistry at USC in the US – why start a church in South Africa after that? His sermon was taking Bible passages out of context and applying them to owning a credit card now. He spoke of the poor using credit cards, denouncing materials and working for others in his own new suit, probably a fancy car out back, he has a second home in Pretoria, a daughter studying at UNISA and just loves the US.

We had met the black African elites of South Africa. Very educated, knowledgable – debates on politics and world oil in the economy – and very taken aback that we lived and worked in Zonke – “Oooo, what an experience, huh?” Was this the real South Africa? At any rate the church is a great place to make connections in-country. The social worker, Christine, is a great NGO asset, even if the church promotes hypocrisy – nothing new. They even had their own bottled water and were indoctrinating their children to be “soldiers for christ.”

On Monday we planned the drama. Headed to the Library where internet happened to work very well and found a great assortment of books. The Library here is full of books on important people and events in South African history and social justice. The Librarian tried to get me a girl friend, but he failed – mostly because he was a shady character. Later we ran drama/ acting exercises with the students which was great fun.

Today we headed back to Germiston – again – to take care of some business. I was able to blog, SCOUT BANANA is growing and staff is working well during summer. We went to a stationary store that had a white (British?) shopkeeper and almost all white management staff. He treated Celumusa as our “girl” instead of the Executive Director of an NPO that she was. We will be working on coaching her so that she has the confidence to command the room from her past days as a domestic worker. Mostly a successful trip – field day tomorrow.

Notes:
Today was also Pension Day, when the government gives out all the checks for the elderly, children, orphans, and the disabled. It is like a massive market day all over the country and it is very difficult to get around in Germiston or Zonke. In Zonke the main street is filled with street vendors with everything and anything to sell.

There are municipal strikes happening because the Mayor was caught by his wife with another woman. He used government money to cover the cost of the lawsuit, etc.

Yet another rainstorm complete with thunder and lightning today. “It never rains in Zonke,” said Rachel (retracted statement) The rains are nice though and remind me of Michigan summer weather.

4 June 2008
I very much desire and long for the style of community and human interaction of many African countries, which is greatly missing in the US – there is a cold, calculated contempt for all others born on the beauty of self-advancement and a wanton individualism. [bred by a false exceptionalism] It is too often forgotten that you can never get anywhere alone and through working with and for others that you gain greater meaning and association in life.

The best example of this dream community I have found mirrored in African history and my own personal experiences. You always greet everyone on the street, neighbors are extremely well known that property lines really don’t matter, most everyone knows everyone in the community and help each other when needed – but the plagues of modernity and globalization threaten to tear that apart. Crime, materialism, drugs, self-advancement, personal over community – but who am I to speak against the oldest running practice in the world, globalization can be good. Who am I to say that desires for modern life, convenience and technology are not good?

The gap between the “1st” and “3rd” world desires hinge on privilege. I seek a simplified life, a sense of community, an absence of technological wonder, for a human face, to leave America behind for some self-discovery. At the same time I see the African communities I visit caught up in popular culture, music, media, movies, slang, technology, and wealth – do they just not see or know the complications this all brings?

I often dream of denouncing the system, backpacking my days on the generosity of others, and not worrying about the ills of structure. So privileged that I can even think of this, I know the communities I visit have no ability to even fathom this dream – burn my money, take almost nothing, and live in the natural world – seeking seclusion in a shrinking world. And as I have stated before, my travels to African communities are short lived and I can easily pick up and leave, whereas the people here have no choice and no privilege to do anything of the sort.

Yet this still does not deter me from continuing this dream quest of seclusion from society structure that shames me to meet real people and experience the world without the weight of America or anything its ‘culture’ brings. But is that something that can really be avoided? Am I not just running from my own rendezvous with my own ‘harsh’ reality? Is it so despised as to run from it?

the barking dogs

As well as posting sections of my research based on my experiences in South Africa I will also begin posting old journal entries from my time there to give some context with pictures included.
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(photo: Zonkizizwe at sunset.)

15 May 2008
It is never quiet here. There is always noise during the day; children going to school, women cooking and cleaning, traffic outside, chickens, men arguing, whistling, people gambling, anything – and especially Zonke lights up after school and work; loud music, flying kites, children running around everywhere at the center, adults trying to relax with friends and relatives – and then there are the dogs. . . Oh the dogs, how they incessantly bark at night, a constant. If there are no other constants in South Africa, here it is: the dogs, searching and fighting for food scraps among the rubbish.

Today we went to Pretoria, administrative [Executive] capital of SA (South Africa) to take care of errands and pick up the long awaited NPO certificate for VVOCF. There have been many setback and long waits, but now it is here! Now officially an NPO, growing community connections, this center will be ready for the future!

In Pretoria we went to five different banks before finding one since arriving at the airport that does foreign exchange, however we forgot our passports! Is that really needed to change money? At any rate we are going to Alberton tomorrow where we can change money. So we were able to see much of Pretoria by walking from bank to bank. We stopped to have some pizza at a shady looking shop run by a white Afrikaner, but it was terrible (not even comparable to the delicious pizza of Ghana prepared by the Lebanese businesses) – better luck next time I hope.

Yesterday, one of the VVOCF staff members was able to tell us about growing up during apartheid, the political violence, and the divide of peoples in Zonkizizwe. We asked if he knew the toyi-toyi dance march from a song on the computer. He knew it well and remembered from there the divisiveness of the ANC, which was majority Xhosa people and the IFP, dominated by Zulu people. The violence between the groups was very intense in Zonke until just after 1996. He had to be dressed as a girl so that he would not be killed. Boys were expected to fight or be killed. He guessed that most of his family would be dead if the violence had not stopped when it did.

A few days ago ‘China’ (nickname of a volunteer at the center) was able to give me a near complete rundown of South African history in brief, he loves history and historic name dropping, but we have heard little of his own experiences. It is crazy to think about how those living now in Zonke around my age lived through apartheid and witnessed such terrible acts of violence.

I also learned more about the extent of HIV/AIDS in Zonke. The intern coordinator reminded us that the statistic of students at MSU that have an STD is 1 in 4. We are only lucky that HIV/AIDS did not enter the mainstream population. Here in Zonke 1 in 4 people is HIV positive. The family at the center is more so affected by HIV/AIDS and now they work to care for children who come the center affected by the virus. There is still a very high stigma and a terribly ineffective ARV program. Many people refuse to get tested or even consider the idea. Each child at the center either has HIV (we went to the Natal-Spruit Hospital to get ARVs for one), has lost parents from AIDS or related illnesses or has not yet been tested to know. There are many who should be tested, but are not. My pen pal’s family has stopped coming to the center because they are so sick – I can only assume related to HIV/AIDS. We discovered the “2006-2008 Response Plan for HIV/AIDS” of the South African government. It has come to my attention that much of what the government does here looks good on paper and on banners, but there is a huge, massive disconnect in implementation.

I have learned so much Zulu tonight. Again, I have been able to naturally pick up a language. I think this stems from my childhood of sound/ noise making. I can make a loud clicking sound from the roof of my mouth that no one I know can replicate. It turns out to be how you make one of the clicking syllables of Zulu.

First entry in this series:
what are we to do when our children are dying?

why there is no doctor: introduction to an epidemic (1)

Subtitle: The Impact of HIV/AIDS in the Post-Apartheid Health Care System of South Africa

Introduction to an Epidemic

Everyone in the car remained silent as we passed a sea of gravestones on the way to Zonkizizwe, an informal settlement south of Johannesburg (1). The cemetery seemed to extend for miles. This was the reality of HIV/AIDS in the peri-urban, informal settlements. It is a reality that is not far departed from scenes in rural homelands as well as the urban townships of South Africa. I was not new to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but I was new to the experiences of those living in an informal settlement under apartheid, struggling with the crippling impact of HIV in an area where I never even saw a doctor. Why were there no doctors?

It is estimated that one in five South Africans aged 15-49 are infected with HIV. Since the last UNAIDS report in 2008, 5.7 million people are living with HIV in South Africa and 1000 people die everyday from HIV/AIDS related causes (2). The cause of death for 71% of people aged 15-49 is now AIDS (3). Some people have even noted that South Africans spend more time at funerals than they do at weddings. There are an estimated 1,400,000 orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS (4). The numbers of those infected does not reflect the real impact of disease because the impact of HIV/AIDS extends further into families, friends, and communities.

Life expectancy has fallen considerably in South Africa as the prevalence of HIV/AIDS spread rapidly from 1990-2003 (5). This time period is marked by violent, but positive changes in government rule and policy. The first case of AIDS in South Africa was diagnosed in 1982 among the gay population, so why was the most rapid spread during this time period (6)? Many experts and professionals posit that this rapid spread of HIV and the lack of a response to the epidemic in South Africa is due to the political turmoil of the 1980s into the 1990s. However, this represents a failure to look deeper into the history of South Africa and its health care systems.

While violent conflict had a direct effect on the response to HIV/AIDS in South Africa, a number of other factors with greater impacts based in apartheid policy led to the rapid spread and limited possibility for a comprehensive government response even if there were an absence of violence. South Africa has a difficult history of formulating a response to HIV/AIDS: from apartheid health policy to AIDS denial, from a failed treatment program to the absence of doctors and adequate health infrastructures.

In the March 2009 elections, health was a driving factor for many voters and appeared on many political party platforms. The African National Congress (ANC) ran with promises to cut HIV infections by 50%, launch a National Health Insurance program, and ensure decent wages for health workers (7). With such a far-reaching crisis at hand, politicians must formulate a better, more comprehensive plan to address the effects of apartheid history combined with the current strains on the health care system if they are to effectively combat HIV/AIDS. Why has the response to HIV/AIDS been so poor? Why was HIV able to spread so quickly in South Africa? Why is there no comprehensive treatment program? Why are there no doctors?

Notes:
1. Personal account of Alex B. Hill who interned at Vumundzuku-bya Vana ‘Our Children’s Future’ in Zonkizizwe (Proper), South Africa from May-August 2008.
2. UNAIDS 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic http://www.unaids.org/en/KnowledgeCentre/HIVData/GlobalReport/2008/
3. Centre for Actuarial Research, South African Medical Research Council and Actuarial Society of South Africa (2006, November), ‘The Demographic Impact of HIV/AIDS in South Africa – National and Provincial Indicators for 2006’
4. HIV & AIDS in South Africa: The history of AIDS in South Africa
http://www.avert.org/aidssouthafrica.htm
5. UNAIDS 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, Chapter 4: The impact of AIDS on people and societies
http://www.unaids.org/en/KnowledgeCentre/HIVData/GlobalReport/2006/default.asp
6. HIV & AIDS in South Africa: The history of AIDS in South Africa
http://www.avert.org/aidssouthafrica.htm
7. Cullinana, Kerry. “Healthy election promises.” 31 March 2009
http://allafrica.com/stories/200903310649.html

Coming next: The Health System via Apartheid