Register Monday | July 6 | 2020

Trust Excercise

In a pandemic, following the rules is an act of love. But the HIV crisis taught Stephanie Nolen that overlooking them can be, too.

When I moved to Johannesburg seventeen years ago, Southern Africa was the epicentre of the global AIDS pandemic. HIV was a menacing hum in the background of life in the city. Celebrities died “of a long illness.” Politicians died “of a long illness.” The obituary pages of the Jo’burg Star were full of the faces of young people who died “after an illness.” Saturdays were for funerals—and in the townships, like Soweto, also for the parties that followed. They were called After-tears: loud, sweaty, sexy affirmations of life. 

I was in my early thirties; one in three people my age in the city was living with HIV. The figure was closer to one in two in Lesotho and Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal, where I often went to work, reporting on the pandemic. A lot of my friends were living with HIV—some openly and fiercely, some privately, some without ...

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