Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Elephant in the Room

After bargaining the vendor of shop #18, I was the proud owner of a deep mahogany elephant stool complete with white tusks. I gave the merchant my money and he handed me my prize. As he handed me the sculpture my hand suddenly dropped with weight. The manipulated timber weighed almost 30 pounds. I had seen the elephant. I knew how big it was yet I had not prepared myself to carry around this elephant for the next 30 minutes in the hot African heat. My elephant became a milestone.

Sub-Saharan Africa is like many other places in the world, distinct in geography and culture. These people have much to celebrate when it comes to heritage and history. Yet they have been struck down in the past century by the epidemic of AIDS. So serious is this epidemic that many countries have over a fourth of their population infected. This means that almost everyone in these countries are effected by this virus. Yet, in Africa very little is mentioned about HIV and AIDS. The idiom concerning an elephant in the room seems appropriate when describing the state of AIDS in Africa. It is an obvious truth ignored for whatever reason.

I began to ponder the effects of this unspoken elephant and what it would lead to. I considered the recent surveys we had given school children in Ghana. These children understood that HIV exists and can be contracted but they are still missing vital data. They don’t understand the full impact of AIDS. I actually hope they never do understand the full weight because one cannot truly understand until they experience it. I’m sure that a person’s spirit unprepared for the full load must drop under the weight of such news. This is why it is so important for us to educate the young and let them know just how heavy it is. For every bit of information we are able to get out there leads to a smaller likely hood that these children will be contract HIV and be afflicted with AIDS. Meaning there will be fewer children orphaned left to care for themselves or the children they conceive will not be forced to live a brief life of agony or that they will become stricken and die from multiple diseases since their immune system weakens and is unable to fight them off. I began to picture these children having to carry AIDS and I am glad that I can teach something that may prevent them from truly experiencing this Virus. Speaking from experience, the elephant was not easy to carry. I’m guessing AIDS would be harder to carry.

1 comment:

Amanda Jane said...

You are a really good writer Jeff, that story breaks my heart...Annie worked in a hospital for a couple of days and the level of snobbery and blatant misinformation from the doctors was astounding. I sometimes wonder if fully educating people would even help (as Americans we know what is making us obese but we're not going to stop McBeefing up anytime soon.) Adults have every right to damage themselves but when children are hurt (either by being infected themselves or indirectly) somebody needs to step in. It should never be a child's responsibility to carry the burdens of their parents. Oh that is so sad.