The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that 22.5 million of the 33 million people infected with HIV reside in sub-Sarahan Africa. Furthermore, they estimate that, within South Africa, 10 percent, or 4 million people, are infected—making it the country with the highest number of infected individuals worldwide. With such alarming statistics, global institutions, national governments, and civil society must unite in an effort to continuously raise awareness of the epidemic and provide support to those affected by it.
Thus, I’m eager to share with you a creative display of support emerging from within South Africa.
The Sinikithemba Choir is a gospel group whose members are all HIV positive men and women.
“Sinikithemba,” which roughly translates to “give us hope” in Zulu, originally began as a support group at McCord Hospital in Durban, where 70 percent of medical admissions are HIV-related. The choir came into existence, as many of its members—largely influenced by the region’s rich choral traditions—sang when working.
The group is a safe haven for those likely be ostracized by friends and relatives if their infection status is publicly disclosed. It is also a source of income for its members, who in addition to singing, sew and create Zulu bead work. 50 percent of the proceeds from such endeavors go to the person who created the work, while the remaining half is used to support a common fund, which pays for the healthcare of ill group members.
The message of The Sinikithemba Choir resonates with people all around the world. In spite of the obstacles they face, a few courageous individuals have inspired us and demonstrated the value of a positive outlook in attempting to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS.
Learn more about The Sinikithemba Choir and the work of UNAIDS.