Africa will be one of main topics of discussion while the leaders of the G-8 nations meet in Scotland this week. Any talks about Africa will include the HIV/AIDS epidemic that is sweeping the continent.In Zambia, AIDS has badly affected nearly every village. Health officials estimate that 24 million people are living with the virus, and that life expectancy has plunged to 33 years-- one of the lowest in the world.
Few of the life-saving anti-retro-viral medicines are available to those infected with the virus. Many people have to use painkillers instead. Women whose husbands died from AIDS and are now infected, are speaking out publicly to overcome the stigma of being infected.
Demetria, a widow, has talked about living with AIDS on a local radio program. "I know what to do and what not to do, because I am very free. If people look at me I don't what to say, but what I know, I know how I am and I feel proud of it."
Other women, such as another whose husband died of AIDS, refused a long-established sexual cleansing ritual of having sex with her dead husband's relative. The practice is said to put his spirit to rest.
Hazel Mwansa, a child psychologist, says some traditional doctors are giving men disturbing medical advice, which is also fueling the spread of the virus."They are told maybe if you sleep with a young child, maybe you can be cured--which is not true--and in that situation, the children that they end up defiling also end up having AIDS/HIV."
Health workers and government officials say although more Zambians are speaking publicly about HIVAIDS, and learning more about the virus, Zambian society continues to suffer from the effects of AIDS.