A few months later we were driving on another cross-country journey. Passing through the communal lands, we saw homestead after homestead with recent marked graves in the compound. Again we got a sense of the frightening enormity of the AIDS crisis.
The person dying of HIV is most often in their 20s or 30s, and has up till now been a wage-earner who had migrated to a town and was sending home money to feed the family. Often the parent of children cared for by grandparents in the village.
When they start to get sick, their money is used to stave off the opportunistic infections they catch more and more frequently. Eventually their money is used up, they are too ill to work, and they return home to die. Any spouse or partner they have is either dead or infected. AIDS kills very quickly in these circumstances. There is no money left for antibiotics, and nutrition is very poor.
Homes in rural areas typically do not have water or electricity. We would wonder what it was like to be trying to care for your partner or son or daughter with so few resources available. Or how it is to be the parent of young children, knowing you are dying and leaving them utterly vulnerable. And the need in us to bring some relief grew.