THE BLOG

The Face of HIV/AIDS

05/04/2007 11:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I caught my first glimpses of Swaziland through the windows of a propeller plane coming over from Johannesburg this morning.

The land seemed rich and sparsely populated. The climate is perfect, warm and breezy.

Everyone we encountered today seemed gentle and friendly with a sense of pride about their homeland.

On the drive to the hotel I noted at least three HIV/AIDS-related billboards. This is sadly indicative of the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic in this country. It seems reassuring that awareness is so widespread. With nearly a quarter of its population infected with this devastating disease, Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. I'm here to see what that looks and feels like.

So far the face of HIV/AIDS here is that of an orphan, even though we have yet to meet one. The number 70,000 is something I cannot shake.

These children have cared for their mothers, watched them die and then become parents to their siblings. These are the converted youth of a generation almost obliterated by a treatable illness.

ARVs have only recently become accessible to the already infected. How will this affect these people? How can this motivate others to have hope? This is a critical point in the history of an epidemic and in the history of this country.