Sizwe's Test: A Young Man's Journey Through Africa's AIDS Epidemic
At the age of twenty-nine, Sizwe Magadla is among the most handsome, well-educated, and richest of the men in his poverty-stricken village. Dr. Hermann Reuter, a son of old South West African stock, wants to show the world that if you provide decent treatment, people will come and get it, no matter their circumstances.
Sizwe and Hermann live at the epicenter of the greatest plague of our times, the African AIDS epidemic. In South Africa alone, nearly 6 million people in a population of 46 million are HIV-positive. Already, Sizwe has watched several neighbors grow ill and die, yet he himself has pushed AIDS to the margins of his life and associates it obliquely with other people's envy, with comeuppance, and with misfortune.
When Hermann Reuter establishes an antiretroviral treatment program in Sizwe's district and Sizwe discovers that close family members have the virus, the antagonism between these two figures from very different worlds -- one afraid that people will turn their backs on medical care, the other fearful of the advent of a world in which respect for traditional ways has been lost and privacy has been obliterated -- mirrors a continent-wide battle against an epidemic that has corrupted souls as much as bodies.
A heartbreaking tale of shame and pride, sex and death, and a continent's battle with its demons, Steinberg's searing account is a tour-de-force of literary journalism.
not paid its utilities bill and the municipality has cut its services. When Hermann came to Lusikisiki he fought bitterly to have electricity installed at the clinics. I cannot say for sure, but if he had still been around I doubt that the bill would have remained unpaid. The darkness is one of the many symptoms of a treatment program that has lost its champion. Perhaps other champions will come. But Sizwe’s failure to test is not simply a tale about health-care services: it is a tale about men.
[twelfth grade]. We had been in this place thirty-one years and the last of our children was educated. The family at home was getting finished. Only the mother of my husband was at home. She needed someone to look after her. So my husband and children went back to my husband’s hometown of Matatiele. I was meant to return with them, but I stayed. There was work for me to do here. I had been involved with AIDS, the work was becoming promising for the first time, and I could not leave.” “Please
as the drugs themselves. As I sat listening to Leonard, an occurrence in my own life from more than a decade ago, one I had not thought of in a long time, came to me quite vividly. I was living in the southeast of England at the time and had resolved to give up smoking. Somebody told me of a doctor named Andrew Rutland who helped people quit smoking. I made an appointment with him and found a quiet, sullen man who dispensed almost no advice at all. “Give up on Monday morning,” he said. “And
of a commotion came to us from the other room. There was laughing, shouting, the thud of a heavy glass bottle hitting the floor, then more laughter. “This is Sizwe’s work,” she said, nodding in the direction of the noise. “He is doing well.” She shrugged. “It is a shebeen. A tavern. It is hard. You must have drinking people around your home.” There is a sense in which our meeting consisted of a mutual eyeing out. When I asked Sizwe whether I could write about him, he took more than a month to
The 1990s narrative disintegrates and vanishes. He plunges into the depths of a world that died long before his birth and emerges with another story of himself, damp and old and somewhat disfigured, but good enough. It is the story of a young, virginal Mpondo man in pursuit of an old-fashioned bride. Why does he do this? What is his purpose? I put these questions to him. I told him that when I listened to him talking of himself I heard two stories, a modern and then an olden one. I did not