Make safe love

30 10 2009

A triple homicide. All women. One, actually, was  a little girl. Their maimed bodies were unearthed with missing limbs and various other mutilations. “Authorities suspect these killings were part of a ritual…” I shuddered and let the reporter’s voice fade into the chorus of traffic and street vendors rushing in the open window of the car. “Were they talking about Zambia?” Steph questioned Siwale as he drove. “Yes,” he said, “But that was in a different province.”

That was a few weeks ago.

Yesterday, as we drove home from town, we heard another unsettling report on the radio: a new study confirmed that gender-based violence is the second biggest threat to people’s lives in Zambia. Number one? HIV/AIDS.

I cringed again. And then I realized the unfathomably explosive nature of these two threats colliding. A billboard we had passed a few moments before seemed disturbingly fitting: Sex with me doesn’t cure AIDS!


Imagine this on the side of the road in the US

Sometimes I have to remind myself I’m in Africa. Sometimes it feels so comfortable to be here – so normal, so natural – that I forget the fact that this country, like many others, has a long history of rituals and beliefs that, while not blatantly evident all the time, still have a very real impact on many people’s lives.

Every once in awhile we pass a sign for a witchdoctor along the side of the road. Some people still believe that having sex with a virgin will cure their AIDS. Some girls are still taught that getting their period is really an evil spirit invading their body. Some people will mutilate certain (female) family members for the chance to bring healing or riches or power to their lives.

We did see this scrawled across some seventh graders’ notebooks. It was, presumably, their sex-ed lesson.


In case you can't read it clearly it says: MAKE SAFE LOVE AIDS KILLS

But, then again, I’m not sure I’d really call that much in the terms of progress.




One response

31 10 2009
Jenny Groen

So true Amy. It is easy to lose sight of where you are and become comfortable. Things that were once shocking and horrifying become a part of daily life and I find myself being less affected by them. I was visiting a family in their home the other day and I found myself thinking, “Well, no one looks malnourished, sick, or dying, so I guess they’re okay.” I was shocked to realize that my standard of living for people here has been reduced to this. Then I took another look around at the horrible conditions they were living in and reminded myself that no one is okay living like this. It doesn’t matter that they’re used to it, it’s still not okay.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: