Being a native of South Africa, I emigrated during the apartheid years, thinking the only solution would be a massive civil war. I was shocked, and am still shocked 17 years later that the white government saw the light, and the transition has been a relatively peaceful one. I believe Nelson Mandela will go down as being one of the towering heroes in history for leading the country through that time so successfully. And while I knew there would be deep scars for many years to come, it is heartbreaking to me the people who suffered so long and should be rejoicing now in reclaiming their freedom, are facing devastation in the form of HIV/AIDS. South Africa has the highest per capita HIV infection rate in the world.
Recently, I performed my annual ritual of buying obsessive amounts of tickets to the Mill Valley Film Festival, and performing a marathon of movie-viewing for 10 days that leaves me exhausted in a heap at the end of the festival. This year I saw the documentary "iThemba:Hope", which is a film about the Sinikithemba Choir, who sing to raise consciousness about HIV, and to be an advocate for those living with the disease. All of the members of the choir are HIV positive. It was a wonderful movie - sad, but also inspiring. I fell in love with the main character in the movie, Zinhle Thabethe, who is a 26 year old single mother with HIV. She lives in a shanty town, but I was so impressed by her intelligence, grace, tenacity and poise. The area in which she lives has a 36% infection rate, and she has taken it as her mission to persuade people to get tested, including her own brothers.
The movie is being screened on the Sundance Channel on December 1, along with a few other movies about South Africa and AIDS. If you go to the website, you can set a reminder to watch the show. Do yourself a favor and watch this show. It's only an hour - you'll probably cry, but you'll have a smile by the end of the show. And you'll feel grateful for what you have in your life.