Solutions to AIDS are ignored

President of The Highfill Co. (

I heard an interview on National Public Radio about some of the atrocities happening in sub-Saharan Africa. Most people know the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic there, but what I was shocked to find is that there are many solutions going unseen and unheard.

I learned that President Mbeki has been offered powerful AIDS drugs at 70 percent of the world cost, and even free—with free delivery to all clinics—and he has refused them. I have learned that there is such a stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS that no one in high-level positions dares to speak of it. This silence is genocide.

There is a myth that having sex with a virgin will cleanse a man of HIV, so virgins are being raped, and thus, infected. As young as 4 years old! Such misogynistic concepts fit into other long-held cultural beliefs. I blame the government, the parliament, President Mbeki, UNICEF and all others who know this is going on and do nothing to educate the citizens of Africa about the facts of HIV/AIDS, and feel that they should be held accountable!

I was first inspired by the story of Nkosi Johnson, a child infected by HIV from birth, who so bravely stood in the face of fear and discrimination, to make a change in South Africa. His story is a truly amazing one.

There is also the story of Charlene Smith, who was raped in South Africa and had to fight to get the antiretroviral drugs she needed so as not to contract HIV. She also faced a wall of resistance when trying to get her rapist convicted. The government looks the other way when it comes to rape and insists that there is no rape problem in South Africa, when in fact a woman is raped there every 26 seconds. A small percentage of those rapists are ever convicted. High percentages of these men have contracted HIV and are spreading it rapidly, without any consequence.

I feel this tragedy at the core of my being. Since this tragedy is across the globe, some here in Sacramento may feel this does not affect us. The AIDS epidemic impacts us all as human beings. My immediate goal is to spread the word of what’s going on there to as many people as possible. The more voices that are heard, the more it furthers the awareness necessary to effectively fight this epidemic.