The Project

In my senior year of high school, my final Physiology group project was to formulate a plan to reduce the prevalence of HIV in Africa.  (At the time of our project, 62.5% of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide were in sub-Saharan Africa, and 1 in 4 adults in Zimbabwe carried the virus.)  Ambitious?  Quite.

Signs like this one are a sad reality in countries where treatment of HIV is not widely affordable.

Signs like this one are a sad reality in countries where treatment of HIV is not widely affordable.

The Facts

FACT: In Zimbabwe, there is a 90%+ awareness rate of HIV spread and prevention, thanks to education and free condom programs, yet the disease still has a 25% prevalence rate.  There is a general attitude that if there is no treatment available, it’s better not to be tested:

“With no access to antiretroviral drugs in many areas, [many Zimbabweans] see testing as pointless.”

World Health Organization Report, 2006

FACT: Zimbabwean artisans handmake gorgeous batik prints and intricate woven baskets using techniques that have been passed from generation to generation for centuries.

This handwoven basket was woven from indigenous materials by the Zulu tribe in Zimbabwe.

This handwoven basket was woven from indigenous materials by the Zulu tribe in Zimbabwe.

FACT: Socially conscious consumers in the United States are willing to pay a premium for folk art that benefits entrepreneurs in developing countries.

FACT: Pharmaceutical companies have developed antiretroviral drugs, which help slow the replication of the HIV virus and can extend a patient’s lifespan.

Pharmaceutical companies are willing to discount ARV drugs in developing countries, but the average patient there is still unable to afford them.

Pharmaceuticals are willing to discount ARV drugs for patients in developing countries, but the average patient there is still unable to afford them.

FACT: These drugs are, unfortunately, expensive and require an ongoing and complex administration process.

An AIDS patient shows a picture of himself in 2003 before he received antiretroviral drug therapy and began a food program. He was so ill then that his family purchased his coffin. (Reuters Canada)

An AIDS patient shows a picture of himself in 2003 before he received antiretroviral drug therapy and began a food program. He was so ill then that his family purchased his coffin. (Reuters Canada)

The Proposal

This cycle is self-sustaining and is a vast improvement over current reliance on sporadic donations and overstretched medical volunteers.

This cycle is self-sustaining and is a vast improvement over current reliance on sporadic donations and overstretched medical volunteers.

The result

The result is a win-win-win-win-win situation.  The artisans support their families, the customers preserve Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage, the pharmaceuticals engage in philanthropy while covering costs, the students gain valuable field training, and the HIV patients live longer, fuller lives. All parties involved contribute one critical piece to create a viable, self-sustaining cycle of benefit.

I’d like to hear what you think.

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