A friend sent me an article about AIDS orphans in Africa, from a CNN site. We are all well aware about how Americans love to sensationalise and to simplify (and Champs loves to generalise about entire nations!) which always gets my back up. One such thing in this article got my back up, and I have overreacted to it, but it sparked an issue I always have boiling at the back of my mind.
One paragraph reads:
Millions and millions of AIDS orphans are the devastating legacy of this epidemic. Africans suffer the most.(View images of those most vulnerable)
Firstly, what is this sick fascination people have for publishing or for viewing pictures of suffering African people (or people maimed or killed in the Middle-East wars and crises). Somehow some people believe that the compromise of others' dignity is justified when making a point in their 'newsworthy' story or plea for funds. I do not agree.
I believe that the publishing of a person starving and malnourished simply desensitises the rest of the world's population to the issues at hand. It strips that person of their dignity. And it also portrays people in drought-ridden areas, HIV-riddled areas, war-torn areas, as useless and that they cannot fend for themselves, and have no hope. It continues the idea of the rest of world pouring funds into a black hole, simply to keep people barely yet still alive.
This is not the idea that I believe should be put across. The idea that should be championed is that these people, if it were not for some pretty kuk exterior circumstances, are intelligent, are capable, and are willing to create wonderful lives for themselves, their families, their countries and for the world as a whole. In not assisting the development of such areas, that we are losing potential and talent left-right-and-centre.
The kids who are considered OVC (orphaned and vulnerable children) who I worked with weekly in my last job (and miss like hell at the moment) were some of the politest and most grateful and happy children with whom I have interacted. AIDS orphans who would quietly walk behind me when I snuck them into my company's volunteers' Xmas party. They would come and collect juice from me, go back to their seats, drink and laugh and watch, then collect all the cups and bring them back to me. One of the kids would be sent to tap me on my arm and quietly whisper a simple request in my ear from all of them. Or in Mozam, I remember one girl carrying my digital camera around to take photos from her perspective, and she would carry it with absolute respect, pride and sensitivity. (Also the men & women I met on the way were sure to dress smartly and expect proper greetings and intelligent conversation.)
These children have dignity & the only pics I have of them are where they are smiling and proud. I used to tell them that best they all just work damn hard and become leaders of this country. Yes, these children had lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS (AIDS Orphans are not necessarily infected themselves) but they still live their lives each day and know how to joke and play and live like the people they are, not some new scary phenomenon that they are currently made out to be from various sources.
What breaks my heart more, rather than seeing a person who is dying, is meeting a person who deserves & will work for so much but lacks the choices or opportunities to realise this. (Which is why the stories of buses not being available to get children to school gets me back shouting on my soap box!)
If you do not know by now that AIDS is not worth acquiring or that there are massive food and development problems across the continent of Africa and the world, no photograph or statistic or sob-story article is going to register this for you.
I believe so, anyway.
[As for the rest of the article, I cannot really see the newsworthy element of it, except for the last section, as the information is nothing new. Also there is the mistake of not knowing that a child who is termed an AIDS orphan does not necessarily have HIV/AIDS themselves. A simple concept that got lost by simplicity-seeking people.]