Thursday, February 1, 2007

Going to South Africa

One of the things that drew me to my field is that I love to travel. I love to meet people whose lives are completely different from mine and realize how similar we are. So of course when my boss called me a few Fridays ago, apologizing for bothering me after work, and then asked me to go to South Africa to meet with an advocacy partner, I was really glad he had called!

I think the world imagines South Africans as brave, heartfelt people who are willing to fight for their freedom and their rights. They did so when they went up against the apartheid regime and won. Now they are doing it again, only this time the aim is to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities against the twin crises of violence and HIV/AIDS. I feel so honored that I get to meet some of the activists doing this work. There's nothing like being fascinated by your job to make a work trip feel like a holiday.

Violence against women and children takes place every minute of every day, mostly beneath a veil of silence. Worldwide, one in three women will be abused sexually, physically or emotionally in her lifetime. Around 20% of girls and 10% of boys are sexually abused before they are 18 years old. These numbers are absolutely shocking. People who are beaten and violated have a hard enough time recovering emotionally, mentally and spiritually. But in a lot of cases, they also have a lot of physical recovery to do, particularly when they come away from their experiences infected with HIV. I'm not going to get into the sociology or physiology of how violence increases the risk of getting HIV (I wrote a paper on it called Zero Tolerance; if you want to know more just follow the link to the report on this blog). Suffice it to say that violence and HIV/AIDS often go hand in hand.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world. But it also has one of the highest rates of interpersonal violence, especially rape. Maybe the highest rate in the world--without good laws and reporting mechanims it's hard to know for sure. But our South African partners and the data the government there has collected tell us that someone is raped every 26 seconds in South Africa. Stop and think for a moment: EVERY 26 SECONDS!!! Even though this may seem a bit hopeless, pervasive HIV/AIDS and rape, there is hope, because South Africa is filled with motivated people and organizations who are determined to make changes and help their country thrive. The Global AIDS Alliance is in solidarity with these outstanding people...and I get to go meet them!

1 comment:

Vineeta said...

Go Lisa Go!!!!!

This is so exciting and cool!
You bet, I will be reading about your adventures every day :).