By Michelle Hough, communications officer
Abba was on the CD player, pizza was on the menu and there was a car park full of 4x4s outside. It could have been any American town on a quiet Sunday night. But it wasn’t, it was Manzini in Swaziland.
I’d known Swaziland wasn’t going to be quite what I’d expected after I’d seen billboards advertising Kentucky Fried Chicken along the motorway as Sr Aine Hughes, emergency officer from Caritas South Africa, drove me from Pretoria. The American dream was alive and well in a mountain kingdom in southern Africa.
“Our HIV infection rate currently stands at 42 percent,” said Musa Dlamini, Caritas Swaziland’s AIDS programme officer over dinner. “That’s the highest rate in the world.”
That was one reason why I’d come here – to gather communications materials for HAART for Children – Caritas Internationalis’ paediatric AIDS campaign. We wanted to show what happened to children in poor countries when they didn’t have access to timely HIV/TB diagnosis and to adequate treatment.
We were hoping it would encourage governments and drug companies to invest in this poorly-resourced area.
“So what about kids? How are they affected by HIV?” I asked Musa.
“Oh, there are around 140,000 children who are either infected or affected by HIV. That’s out of a total population of around 1.1 million,” he replied.