Jamaicans are primed to contend with all who speak ill of their country. As someone who grew up and lived in Jamaica until my midtwenties—although I now live in the US—I understand how the culture reacts to criticism.
[Editor’s note: Gideon Mendel’s photo essay “Looking AIDS in the Face” is not available online due to rights restrictions. It is only available in the print issue. To order a copy of the Winter 2006 issue, please click here. To subscribe and [...]
t is so hot here the highway melts everyday. Vehicles flattening it to oily, gleaming blacktop. I am sitting at a plastic table on a hot concrete step at the Pensao Montes Namuli, watching the road, drinking a dark, malty domestic beer called Manica. The bottle is cool and slippery in my hand. The air smells of tar. The earth simmers in the brown heat, even as dusk approaches. Guy reckons it’s 35 degrees centigrade. I smoke another cigarette. The sun sinks towards the dust-hazed horizon.
In August 2001, I was strapped into the passenger seat, speeding along the highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. On the edge of every shantytown and encampment, we passed two invariable landmarks: shacks with men sel [...]
One October evening in 2001, in an impoverished shantytown in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, David Potse entered the house of a former girlfriend, and raped her 9-month-old daughter. The child was later taken to a nearby hospital, where her internal injuries were found to be so severe that she nearly died. The nurses nicknamed her “Baby Tshepang” which means “have hope.” After a series of operations, she miraculously survived. Potse was apprehended soon afterwards. At his trial, he said that he was out drinking on the night of the assault. However, DNA tests showed his semen was present in the child’s rectum, and his current girlfriend testified that she walked in on him during the rape. Potse was sentenced to life in prison in 2002.
In 2001, a group of scholars at University of California, San Francisco came up with a scheme that they hoped would protect African women from HIV. They had been working in Zimbabwe, a poor, politically troubled nation in Southern Africa, where the epidemic had killed more than a million people over two decades. Virtually everyone in Zimbabwe was aware of AIDS. The country had been exposed to anti-AIDS media campaigns since the 1980s and a school-based AIDS education program since 1994. Nevertheless, by 2001, around a quarter of all Zimbabwean adults were infected with HIV, and the virus was spreading rapidly, especially among teenage girls. It was urgent for researchers like them to come up with a solution.