Posted by: hilarycole | November 30, 2007

The whole point

EMPOWER grads I’ve just finished the second EMPOWER HIV/AIDS program, and am ready to start the third and last on Monday.  This last one was youthful, vocal, and at times, a bit macho.  The only two young women had their work cut out for them.  Mary, my formidable translator, has no problems handling a group of boistrous young men though. When talking about preventing mother-to-child transmission, several of them (half) joked about the woman getting herself to the hospital in case of birth complications.  She does the one-eyebrow-raise really well: “Did she get pregnant by herself?” The women are strong here, and the times they are a-changin’. 

The greatest moment came at the end of the six-day course; Drake, an eager, bright participant but definitely one of the cool-guy members of the class, stood up to volunteer his plans for using his new knowledge in his community – “First, for me, foremost,” he said, putting his hand on his chest, “I am going to go the the VCT and get tested.”  I applauded him for leading by example.

This is the same man who’d informed me earlier where half our church benches had gone – they’d been taken for a funeral the night before. The woman who’d died was apparently young and ambitious. “Too many funerals,” he said shaking his head without any melodrama, just as if this was an unfortunate matter-of-fact.  “Myself I’ve seen five,” he said. He can’t be more than 21, and this was a small, rural place.

The next young man stood up and also pledged to get tested for HIV and know his own status first. He followed it by saying he would then share his knowledge with his community members and “country wide.” I high-fived him for thinking big. It has to start somewhere.



  1. YEAH Hilary: I’m so jealous! I spent three years in Africa (1979-1982), living in South Africa, and spending time in Kenya as well. The African people are so very precious and special, and I “get” what you are feeling. What an exhilarating experience it can be! Loved reading your blog. I am a supporter of the Stephen Lewis Foundation for HIV-AIDS in Africa. Some day I’d love to go back……

    Gail Haya (pilates/Espiritu)

  2. Hey Gail! Thanks for the note; give my best to Siobhan and everyone at Espiritu. Take good care.

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