Journalist Itano chronicles the state of AIDS in Africa through the eyes of three families.
In 2001, Itano began a five-year stint in the continent home to five million HIV-positive people, with many more still unaware of their status. She relates her story in three parts (Denial, Despair, Hope), and each section profiles a family dealing with AIDS in different areas of Africa and their valiant personal struggles for survival. Itano tracks the varied theories and repercussions of AIDS back to its probable African origins from the early 1970s, when the medical community became increasingly baffled by the manifestation of some rare strains of life-threatening infections in gay men and IV-drug users. Currently, with limited availability of treatment options in Africa, severe illness can be swift, with impending death a certainty. Eight months after her HIV-positive diagnosis, Adeline Majoro, a native of Lesotho (a tiny, poverty-stricken country at the southern tip of the African continent) and mother of two-year-old son Bokang, met Itano at a gathering of unified civilians infected with HIV called Positive Action. Itano observed Adeline bravely embracing her aspirations to become a chartered accountant, while her health continued to decline. In Ingwavuma, South Africa, doting mother “Gogo” Nywao gathered her family into the small hut they call home as the disease robbed her of her children one by one. The hopeful final segment, a bittersweet success story in Botswana with a mother named Seeletso, imparts a renewed optimism for those suffering in Africa: dedicated care and government grants to support HIV-positive children, increased availability of life-saving antiretroviral drugs and Africa’s long-awaited recognition of the AIDS pandemic resulting in widespread government-sponsored clinics where more of the population can get tested. Itano’s profiles are predominately female because women not only comprise 60 percent of Africans with AIDS, but they are the only demographic willing to confront and discuss their infection without fear or shame.
Searing and somber, punctuated with illuminating flickers of hope.