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