When I first signed up for my Peace Corps assignment, all that I was told was that I’d be in Lesotho, working with communities on HIV/AIDS. I was very excited about living in Lesotho, but less so about working on the AIDS pandemic. It just seemed like such a monumental and depressing task. We were told that the official prevalence rate was 24% of people in Lesotho were infected with HIV. It sounds like a lot, but it is totally different to be in the middle of it, to see all the sickness and death. It’s everywhere and it effects everyone. It has decimated such a friendly, loving people. After being here for a year and seeing its terrible pervasive effects, I wouldn’t want to focus on anything else. Even though the average family has 3-4 children, there is still negative population growth, it’s that bad.
In my village there aren’t really any good figures on how many people are infected. There is a lot of stigma and prejudice about being HIV positive, so most people won’t talk about it (which is a big part of the problem). But in my village of 204 families, there are 85 children who have lost one parent, and 33 children who have lost both parents and are still in primary/elementary school.Besides teaching about HIV in the schools, I am helping to start a community center in my village with funding from the Maliba Comunity Development Trust.
One that focuses on orphans, a place where they can have a community garden and chicken coup, so they can have a regular source of healthy food. The center will also provide classes for out of school youth and a variety of workshops. The purpose of the center is to be a resource, to address whatever issues or needs the community thinks are the most important. HIV prevention and education are going to be a big part, and I really hope it helps. As one village woman said during my household survey, “the biggest problem in the village is that children keep dying.”
The contents of this article are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the American Peace Corps.