Evgeny Lebedev: I have seen at first hand an Africa scarred by HIV

Share
Related Topics

It was a warm sultry day last spring when I heard about a small 12-year-old girl who had been raped and consequently infected with the HIV/Aids virus. I was in South Africa with Elton John and David Furnish to see at the most basic grassroots level how their Aids charity works.

This girl's mother had been physically abused by her partner, but then he allowed her daughter to get into a car with a driver she did not even know, supposedly to take her home – she ended up being raped. Psychologically as well as physically she was hurt, eventually becoming withdrawn and sick from HIV.

I heard this and other shocking stories from Primrose Thetyane, an auxiliary social worker at Mosaic's satellite office at Score Centre in Harare, Khayelitsha. There they try to change what may seem like a potential death sentence into a way to survive by giving care, hope, medication and counselling. A key treatment was something called a PEP (post exposure prophylaxis), which prevents transmission of HIV from rapist to victim if administered in time.

It struck me how extraordinarily varied were the HIV sufferers who were helped by the foundation. A gay shelter allowed intimidated sick men to feel protected and secure and no longer in fear of the consequences of their sexuality. The Health4Men programme had been launched in Cape Town 18 months ago, and is the first clinic specifically for men who have had sex with other men that operates within the public health system in South Africa. Possibly the only one in Africa, as most African countries do not accept homosexuality and in several it is a capital offence. What surprised me was that there was a plaque on the wall indicating that the American government under George W Bush had also helped fund the clinic. I was told he had signed off on the funding without quite realising it would end up helping gay men.

There were many inspiring individual stories of suffering which I heard that resonated in my mind for a long time afterwards. Each was like a fresh wound. So many suffering and so much needed to do to help. We drove from a shelter to a medical centre, where, as always, the number of people in need of help exceeded the amount of money and human care available. Heartbreaking was the innocence and acceptance of their situation by infected children, scared and their lives potentially shortened.

I had been given a special chance to see projects helped by the £200m that Elton John has raised for his HIV/Aids charity, especially in Africa, where 27.7 million of the 33 million people living with HIV/Aids live. South Africa has one of the highest numbers of children under 15 living with the virus; estimates range from 180,000 to 280,000. It is shocking and sobering to think that there are 13 million orphans in Africa. I now understand better why Elton has spent a thirdof his life trying to help.

Evgeny Lebedev is chairman of Independent Print Ltd, publishers of 'The Independent'

Click here to donate to HIV/Aids charity EJAF

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Army reservist Corporal James Dunsby  

Whether it’s in the City, the Army or at school, this ritual sadism has to stop

Chris Blackhurst
Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, unveiled her new name on Monday  

'I'm the happiest I've been for a long time and I finally know where I fit': Here's why role models matter for trans kids

Susie Green
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific