Sunday, September 30, 2007

AIDS Communities in Swaziland, Africa

Carlo Capua (Toluca, Mexico / USA)
(translated by Laura Vaillard (
original version)
Pictures by Carlo Capua

From the day of my arrival, people of Swaziland rolled out the red carpet for me. My schedule was very full, and considering the time and resources, I walked away feeling like I had accomplished everything I could have.

I had my share of eye-opening experiences, starting with my first visit to a real African church. My friend and host Bongani had told me a lot about his church. It was in the middle of a very rural area. There were about 30 members, and the sermon and prayers were all in siSwati. I could sense that he was a little hesitant about inviting me, but I told him that I was excited to go and take some candid pictures of people.

After the half-mile trek through the mountains (he wasn’t kidding!) we arrived at a very modest white tent with a group of about 15 people waiting inside. I asked Bongani why the other half of the parishioners didn’t come. “They don’t have any clothes or food at the moment,” he said.

It is indeed sad that while many people suffer from lack of food, others are dying from overeating. What really kills me is that at the current “growth” rate, in the next five years 4 out of 10 adults in the USA will be obese while 2.6 million people will continue to starve in Africa.

The most memorable experience I had was during a visit to one of Swaziland’s rural communities. The Mbabane GAP Alumni students and I went to learn more about the situations of many “child headed households.” As HIV is sometimes (not always) passed from a mother to her newborn, there are literally entire communities of orphaned children whose parents have died as a result of HIV.

We went to visit a girl named Cassandra. A frail 18 year-old, she had a beautiful smile and warm spirit that I will never forget.

Cassandra was a victim of her own culture. In Swaziland there is a misconception, primarily on some rural areas, that having sex with a virgin can cure your infection of HIV or AIDS. Consequently, one day an older family member raped her with the hopes of curing his illness.

After Cassandra became infected, her health began to deteriorate. When we visited her she was bedridden. And although she didn’t say much, just the fact that she welcomed us for a few moments into her house, her life, was touching. I promised to visit her next year.

Two weeks later, she passed away.

About Carlo Capua and Sister Cities International

I travelled on behalf of Sister Cities, for a program between Fort Worth and our newest partner of Mbabane, Swaziland. I went on a fact finding trip to start a young professionals exchange and visited communities of HIV patients, orphaned children, and brought attention to our new Sister Cities relationship through media events and visits with City Council.

In June 2008 I will lead a group of our young alumni to develop projects to create mutual understanding between students in both countries, increase the partnership between Fort Worth and Mbabane and create opportunities for cultural exchange and friendship between students.

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