By: EMILY COOK
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – Tshwane clinic patients and workers lit candles on AIDS Memorial Day for those who’ve died of HIV and AIDS, as one HIV patient, leaving behind five children, was cremated.
Early morning, many gathered outside in an open playground, remembering loved ones lost and thinking of those still suffering.
With candles lit, the mood was solemn, but as with many African services, the songs were filled with joy and new hope for the future.
During the early morning service, the mother of Elizabeth*, the woman who was cremated, now in charge of raising the five children left behind, also remembered.
Not uncommon for South Africa, four million orphans are currently alive left to raise themselves or siblings after losing parents to HIV and AIDS.
Hope Alive, a non-profit organization focused in supporting people living with HIV and AIDS helps families like Elizabeth’s.
Upon receiving the news, Hope Alive brought food and clothing to the four daughters and son left behind to their grandmother.
“Her mom said she went to see her and [Elizabeth] couldn’t swallow, couldn’t eat, and the last words she said was, ‘I’ll never go back to the streets mom’,” said Alejandra Watson, missionary with Hope Alive.
Deaths from HIV and AIDS are sometimes caused by re-infection from unprotected sex or contaminated needles. For these reasons Hope Alive aims to encourage patients to take medication and stay in a stable home.
“I know she loved her children, and maybe in her mind she thought she was doing good staying away from them,” said Watson.
The future of these children may be brighter than most, with a grandmother who has been taking care of them for most of their lives.
The children, aged five, six, seven, 11 and 15, still have a chance at a good life. With proper education and encouragement, they do not need to see the side of life their mother lived in.
In many of the poorer areas surrounding Pretoria, South Africa, Hope Alive looks to be this encouragement and education through voluntary HIV and AIDS counseling and testing.
The oldest daughter will be performing an acrobatic dance number this coming Saturday. Despite the despair, life and hope still live on.
*name has been changed