Thursday, December 06, 2007

AIDS is changing our appearance

A couple of unrelated articles I read yesterday had me thinking about how the world is going to change because of HIV and AIDS.

What will the socio-cultural impact really mean for Southern Africa?

An American friend, when he visited years ago, he was amazed how South Africans gave to each other in our own unique way. I began to think about this as Ad Hoc Social Welfare. Leaving one’s house costs money – you tip the car guard, because it is some form of social welfare from rich to poor – he’s not necessary, but he’s doing something. You buy random things at the robot – and hey, someone gets money that day. You have your car washed when you park at the mall rather than going to the formal Wishy Washy, and someone directly benefits rather that the cash being distributed along global company BP channels. Every day we commit small little actions and ways of living that we have developed as a society, unique to the South African context, problems, cultures etc.

HIV is pressing down hard on us, from every angle. And without even realising it, we are changing our ways of living, changing our perceptions of people and life and morality, adapting how we react to one another and the economy and the political climate. All because of this pandemic (or ‘hyper-endemic’, if you want to get very on top of your definition game).

Child-headed households are leading to Home-Based Care organisations cropping up everywhere. HIV might one day lessen its grip, but I see these HBCs existing for decades to come, no matter what the sickness is that is affecting impoverished families. The Home-based carers are just ordinary women and men who go to “vulnerable” households and care for the sick (in a hospice manner), assist children with obtaining food, clothes, documents, with doing their homework, or in having psychological support.

Studies have said that AIDS orphans are doubtfully going to band together in gangs and cause social havoc and increased crime across the region. But what will a generation comprised of so many orphans lead to??

Richer white families are adopting orphaned black children and it is not an extraordinary sight to see a white mom with black & white children – what will this mean?

We become angered and lose faith in our traditional centres of authority, like our president & our religious leaders, when they cling to past ideas that do not answer questions of what is happening to us now. Mbeki is so sceptical of Colonial after-effects that he cannot recognise the reality of what HIV is doing to every family in South Africa. He is suspicious of this all being a trick by neo-colonial-seeking powers.

A disease is one reason that a politician has lost his people’s trust and faith.

The rights of shunned groups are now being recognised and championed, from gay men, African women, to sex workers, or even drug users.

Richer families are taking on the medical responsibilities of their domestic workers (maids, gardeners, ad hoc painters), as well as trying offer psycho-social support to these women and men. What will this mean? Will such support lead to new areas of maintenance or new formal systems being put in place?

What is the introductions of grants causing to our SA society? The Foster Care grant that motivates people to take in an AIDS orphan and to care for him/ her. The disability grant that is received when a person has reached the stage of AIDS.

Cultural practices of circumcision, of Widow-Inheritance, of property inheritance are all being affected by HIV. All of these are having to adapt in ways we cannot truly yet appreciate.

Teachers in rural areas are on longer only teaching little children how to read, write and add, but how to care for a sick parent, what is disease and how to deal with it, how to cope with death. Teachers are taking back a holistic appearance.

Pieter Fourie, who was one of the people who sparked me thinking like this, says that “AIDS may well represent an opportunity to teach ourselves about what it means to be more humane, caring societies”.

Our environment is changing before our eyes and lives, and it is going to be interesting to see what emerges.

Just a thought. Back to work for me.


Unknown said...

I find change like the kind back home more scary then exciting.I am not sure how fair that is as I have not been back home since 2004.

Champagne Heathen said...

You'd probably be able to better notice than us then. You don't really realise how much things are changing when you are in them. Although, the change I'm talking here I think is so subtle that it will take a few decades to realise the difference.

Good to see you back here btw! I assume you liked your look around then.

Unknown said...

Very much so Champagne!