Visual Essay

A Portrait of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa

Presented in sponsorship of picturesfestival.com

by
• 712 words

Photograph by Liz Marshall
At a busy border town in Kenya, early morning rush hour is symbolic, magnifying the position of women in society.

I had the honour to work for the Stephen Lewis Foundation to document the impact of HIV/AIDS on communities and individuals in sub-Saharan Africa; specifically on women, orphans, and grandmothers.

In the spring of 2006 I journeyed with a small documentary crew through urban and rural South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, and Uganda, to visit some of the grassroots organizations SLF supports. Seventy-two hours of dense material, in eight African languages, has since been developed into three half-hour films; a trilogy that gives voice to those who are sick, dying, and resiliently surviving in the face of the AIDS pandemic. As part of this unforgettable and life-changing assignment, I took over 500 photographs, both in black and white and colour.

[This] sequence of images represents the spectrum I witnessed; one that revealed itself in every moment: poverty, human suffering, gender inequality, and overwhelming injustice combined with unimaginable strength of character, intense beauty, and a glowing spirit of generosity.

Photograph by Liz Marshall
At the crack of dawn women are at work cleaning the streets and tending to children.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
The early morning sunrise silhouettes Africa‘s most vulnerable in the face of the AIDS pandemic: women and children.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
“Africa has become a continent of orphans.”—Stephen Lewis
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Female caregivers are the backbone of healthcare for women dying of AIDS in rural Africa.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Mercy, a woman of thirty-two, has lost everyone but her teenage daughter.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
A female care worker feeds Mercy. Mercy has been bedridden for three years.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
“We are walking on the knife’s edge of an unsolvable human catastrophe, 20 million children will be orphaned by the year 2010.”—Stephen Lewis
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Over 13 million children have been orphaned in sub-Saharan Africa.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Little hands and faces, smiles, and curious minds embrace the foreigner behind the lens.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Children without proper footwear cannot attend school.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
This orphaned girl receives food from WOFAK (Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya), a local grassroots organization.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
A common sight: young girls caring for babies.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
A common sight, take two: young girls caring for babies.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Soon after this photograph was taken, Thapelo, an orphan from Soweto, South Africa, was taken into the care of Cotlands Baby Sanctuary.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Miriam, an HIV-positive AIDS orphan, waits for her counselor to visit. Home-based care workers from Reach Out Mbuya in Kampala, Uganda pay regular visits to Miriam and her two brothers.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Play.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
“There’s absolutely no precedent anywhere in the annals of humankind that has given us a sense of what to do about millions of orphans, in country after country…they feel bewildered and abandoned and angry and sometimes anti-social and they crave nurture and love like you cannot believe.”—Stephen Lewis
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Happy children walk to school in the early morning light.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
“The grandmothers see education as the key to a hopeful future for their grandchildren. Everyone understands that without it, girls in particular are more vulnerable to early marriage, sexual exploitation, and abuse, and are at greater risk of contracting HIV.”—Stephen Lewis
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Grandmothers across the continent of Africa tend to the overwhelming emotional and physical needs of millions of AIDS orphans.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
Matilda, a caregiver in Zambia, is a grandmother to more than a dozen orphans.
Photograph by Liz Marshall
“Grandmothers are the unsung heroes of Africa.”—Stephen Lewis