Seeking to put a face behind the staggering statistics of HIV in Africa, UNAIDS brings a unique photo exhibit to the New York public. The House Is Small But The Welcome Is Big, a photography project initiated by Lynn Warshafsky, founder of Venice Arts, and Neal Baer, executive producer of Law and Order, opened at the United Nations on 17 November.
The photo exhibit comprised of 40 photographs taken by women and children living with HIV in Cape Town, South Africa and Maputo, Mozambique, two areas heavily affected by the deadly virus. With World Aids Days coming up on December 1, the exhibit comes at a timely moment.
Both Baer and Warshafsky, who were present at the event, were motivated by the desire to give a voice to the voiceless afflicted with HIV.
“I got involved because I wanted to help people tell their stories,” said Baer. “I know how empowering it is to tell one’s own story and how powerful it is to hear someone’s story.”
Bertil Lindbald, director of UNAIDS, called it a “brilliant initiative.” Lindbald added that the event “draws attention to the 1.4 million affected by AIDS in South Africa and the half a million children living with AIDS in Mozambique.”
The project began in 2006. Warshafsky, while working with a non-profit organization called Mothers to Mothers, came up with the idea, in collaboration with Baer, to equip some Cape Town mothers with cameras and have them tell their stories through pictures.
Video from The House Is Big on Youtube.
In 2007, Warshafsky decided to include children orphaned by AIDS in Mozambique. In the end, 15 Cape Town mothers and 18 Maputo children took part in the project. Now, the photographs and stories hang on the walls of the UN South Gallery. This is the exhibit’s sixteenth venue – according to Warshafsky, the photographs have been seen in 15 different locations around the world.
The photography exhibit, which runs until 11 December, tackles only one part of the solution to the African HIV epidemic – it raises awareness.
According to reports cited on the Global Issues site:
UNAIDS estimates f or 2007 (which are latest figures available) there were roughly:
• 32.8 million living with HIV
• 2.5 million new infections of HIV
• 2 million deaths from AIDS
• Over two-thirds of HIV cases, and some 80% of deaths, were in Sub-Saharan Africa
These figures are so staggering that Kofi Anan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, told the British Guardian in 2000,
“More people have died of Aids in the past year in Africa than in all the wars on the continent.”
With all the awareness raised highlighting Africa’s war against AIDS, the continent falls short on vital ammunition – the medication necessary to fight the virus.
With so many African nations grappling with corruption and poverty, covering the annual cost of providing antiretroviral medication for each affected individual is next to impossible. Organizations like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), set in place by the United Nations in 2001, give yearly grants to countries chosen by its board.
Question is: with the cost of antiretroviral medication amounting to $20,000 per year per person, can GFATM afford to provide treatment for the millions afflicted by the virus?
More questions to consider: