The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'We buried Elizabeth. She was 22'

I'm just back from St. Anne's graveyard. We buried Elizabeth, one of my cousins. She was 22.

She hadn't been well for two years. Frequent bouts of malaria, coupled with rashes on various parts of her body, had made her suffer terribly. Her husband, Masauso Nyirenda, died three years ago of tuberculosis. Their only child, Precious, died at 6 months after suffering from malaria and recurring diarrhea. HIV/AIDS wiped out my cousin's family.

But they aren't the only victims of this killer disease. My neighborhood has experienced so many AIDS-related deaths in the last five years. At St. Anne's, one is sure to find several new graves, with flowers and wreaths still fresh.

I feel greater pain when I realize that people are generally not yet careful about their sexual behavior. Various surveys here have shown that irresponsible sexual behavior stimulated by rampant beer drinking is the main factor in widespread HIV infection. There are other reasons but of lesser dimension.

According to a relatively credible estimate, 30 percent to 35 percent of the adult population is HIV positive. Against this sad background, the Lutheran World Federation Department for World Service in Zambia began a wide-scale HIV/AIDS prevention campaign.

Project officers help community members organize AIDS prevention committees that carry out awareness-building campaigns through lectures and drama in the villages, churches and schools. Their message: Change your behavior to prevent AIDS.

The traditional leaders, the custodians of culture and traditions, are also involved in these campaigns so they can be instrumental in changing and eradicating harmful traditional practices.

The HIV/AIDS prevention campaign makes me very hopeful that things will change for the better. For example, more and more people are buying condoms with the understanding that this device will protect them against sexually transmitted infections. Although I know we have a long way to go in changing the general behavior of people as far as sexual relationships are concerned, I see a glimmer of hope because I have begun to observe a change in the right direction.


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February issue


Embracing diversity