Telling the stories behind the stats this World Aids Day

AIDS advocacy signs on the side of the road in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This World AIDS Day, 1 December 2018, we celebrate the remarkable progress that the world (including South Africa) has made in responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Nevertheless, it remains a public health threat as Africa’s youth population — the world’s fastest-growing — transitions into adulthood.

Globally, there were 36.9-million people living with HIV in 2017, according to UNAIDS data. Of that total, 26-million live in Africa, chiefly in sub-Saharan Africa. We ask you to pause for a few minutes to consider the human stories behind these hard, cold, clinical statistics. Think about the people, each with his or her own hopes and dreams, who are at the highest risk of contracting HIV, and those already living with HIV and AIDS. How can we make a difference in their lives?

Image: Goalkeepers Report 2018

The five short films you can view below take an intimate, close-up look at a handful of South Africans with HIV or TB (because of co-infection, these two diseases often go hand-in-glove).

By courageously sharing their stories, these five South Africans inspire us to think about how we can be catalysts for positive change; how we can use citizen activism to raise awareness and lobby for action; and how, as we host the first Goalkeepers event on the African continent in Johannesburg on 1 December 2018, we can each be Goalkeepers in our own way.

There are 7.2-million South Africans living with HIV, and half a million with tuberculosis (TB). They have access to life-enhancing and life-saving medication, but their socioeconomic circumstances often place them at risk and impede their progress. These are their stories …

Zingisile is an elderly man living in KwaZulu-Natal. He decided he was cured of TB and discontinued his “bitter” treatment; his sister had her doubts that he was, indeed, TB-free.

Thembi is a young woman from Sebokeng, south of Johannesburg, who contracted HIV from a “blesser” (sugar daddy). Unemployed, she resorted to transactional sex to feed herself and her small son.

Taylor is a teenager with a young son. She lives with her grandmother and siblings in the Johannesburg suburb of Westbury, after her parents died of AIDS. A drug user, she says she is bribed with crystal methamphetamine in return for sex.

Ntombifikile lives in rural KwaZulu-Natal. She contracted TB as a baby and has now developed multidrug-resistant TB after interrupting her treatment. She feels ill when taking the drugs on an empty stomach and often can’t afford the taxi fare to the clinic.

Aubrey is a young, HIV-positive, gay man living in Soweto. His parents died of AIDS. His family kicked him out of the house when he came out, and now he often has to turn to high-risk transactional sex (or commercial sex work) or face being destitute.