A Sad Research Topic
Most days I talk about how I wish I didn’t study AIDS because I think it’s an overdone topic receiving too much attention when there are other problems with wider impacts affecting rural Africa. But, honestly, there’s another reason why I wish I studied something else: AIDS is sad. Interviewing people sick with AIDS is sad. Quite obviously, they’re dying.
In the fall of 2007, I was typing a transcript of a translated interview and could not help but cry: the transcript was littered with “[respondent coughs]” — and this was a woman who had yet to receive antiretroviral treatment, despite its then-recent rollout to the rural area where she lived. Though she was sick, when asked to choose between the government offering her village more AIDS services or something else, she talked about how it was really important for the village to get a borehole because it would protect everyone.
Today, the NY Times posted another reminder about how sad AIDS is:
Thembi Ngubane, South African AIDS Activist, Dies at 24
Ngubane fought a very public battle against HIV.
”Hi, this is Thembi,” began the diaries. ”Every morning when I wake up I run off to my drawer, take out the mirror and look at myself. Then I start to do my prayer. I say it every day every time when I am feeling angry.”
”I say, ‘Hello HIV, you trespasser. You are in my body, you have to obey their rules. you have to respect me and if you don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you. You mind your business and I will mind mine and I will give you a ticket when your time comes,” she said.
Ngubane was 19 when she was given a tape recorder to make an audio diary about living with HIV in a country where nearly one third of young women are infected with the virus. Few families have been left unscathed by the epidemic and yet the stigma remains so strong that many people are too scared to tell even their closest family and friends.