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A kid's-eye view of HIV/AIDS in Africa

Graham F. Scott

Toronto-based NGO Africa’s Children—Africa’s Future, which runs programs and advocates for HIV/AIDS orphans and other children in sub-Saharan Africa, has an interesting photography exhibit on right now as part of the annual Contact festival. AC-AF provided cameras to African kids, aged 12-18, and asked them to document the world around them, particularly the consequences of HIV/AIDS. Loosely grouped under the theme of “What does HIV and AIDS mean to you?” the photos show a tiny slice of life from kids who are living inside the continuing catastrophe of HIV in Africa.

To my eye it’s a bittersweet collection of images: AC-AF, which provided these photos for us to post here, says these photos document the “courage and hope” of the next generation, and you can certainly see some optimism in these images. But the photo that won the contest portion of the program, by a 14-year-old named Warren in Ubungo, Tanzania, strikes me as awfully melancholy — a single student in an otherwise deserted classroom:


Click to see larger version.

There’s an ambivalence to this image—all those empty chairs—that just strikes me as sad. But the point of this isn’t to psychoanalyze every image to death, it’s to get a perspective we don’t often see: life as it’s lived by young people coping with the effects of an epidemic. Click through the jump to see some other images from the series, along with the statements from the kids that accompany their photos.

Click the thumbnails for full-size versions of the photos. Warren’s photo didn’t include a statement, but the other three do. In order, the photos were taken by Zainabu, Yasinta, Thobias, and Warren (last names were scrubbed because all the photographers are under 18)

From the statements that AC-AF took from the kids:

Name: Zainabu
Age: 13
What do your pictures show about HIV/AIDS in the future? If AIDS will increase, children will lose their parents and guardians and that will be the beginning of street children and orphans as well. The youth will leave and the country will be empty with only old men who are not capable of working. Animals will miss people to serve them food and water. Plants will wither away because they will lack water, manure and to be well taken care of. Manpower of the nation will disappear. SO IT’S THE DUTY OF EVERY CITIZEN TO PROTECT THE NATION AGAINST AIDS.

Name: Yasinta
Age: 16
What do your pictures show about HIV/AIDS in the future? Not discriminating the infected, they show that in the future there will be unity. People will not discriminate the people infected from HIV and AIDS. They will love them. They will know they can not transmit a disease by shaking hands, not even by hugging. And when parents give birth they will be educated for those who breastfeed their children to up to three months and when they are given medications for preventing the child from getting transmitted, the parent must tell the truth about her health so that when she is giving birth she should not share the tools when cutting the naval and they should all go for testing and the man should not refuse.

Age: 12
What do your pictures show about HIV/AIDS in the future? The picture shows that HIV and AIDS will increase in a high speed like water from the tap.

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