I am here in Cape Town, South Africa, to attend the 5th International AIDS Society Conference. Yesterday I had an amazing opportunity, at the invitation of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Secure the Future Foundation, to accompany a European press contingent on a site to visit to GAPA, an organization of grandmothers of AIDS orphans in Khayelitsha, South Africa.
Khayelitsha is a shantytown of nearly one million people who live on the outskirts of Cape Town. Here, amidst immense poverty and harsh living conditions, lies a safe haven for these amazing women who provide community outreach, training, and skills-building to other grandmothers who have lost their children to HIV/AIDS. They provide their sisters with hope and encouragement, and help them to gain the skills and to access the resources they’ll need in order to raise their orphaned grandchildren.
Many of the women are hopeless and despairing when they first come to the center, and have no idea where to go, who to turn to, and what to do next. The grandmothers explain to those just entering the program that there is no time for depression. As they say here, “Depression is my name, but today she is singing a different tune.”
And the children, ah, the children...well, that story will just have to wait for my next blog. Stay tuned for more in the days to come about GAPA and the IAS conference, and my first trip to Africa.