Thursday, May 20, 2010


When I'm sick I start to question where it came from. I do a lot of work in the township and sometimes with a lot of kids... maybe that was it. I work out at the gym...maybe that was it. I was around this sick person, maybe they gave it to me.

Because lifestyle expectations we can think of ourselves as invincible; unstoppable; made for the job before us! In reality, a common virus can knock us down and render us five year olds and vulnerable to greater infection. Most invading viruses are usually gone in ten days. Cold, flu, and other viral invaders are attacked by our incredible Immune system; we are created by God to fight invading viruses. Even so, some viruses have had a hey-day with us. The most recent one, H1N1, or the Swine flu.

In the early 1900's worldwide, the flu pandemic wiped out more people than all of the fighting in the great World War (1). Today flu can be deadly, but for babies, toddlers or senior citizens, those whose immune systems are not as effective, a flu vaccine has been made available. Vaccines usually make a shield against the viral components of things that are deadly, but in the case of the flu vaccine, the effectiveness rate is pretty much at 50 per cent, depending on the year and the virus.

The common cold can be a deadly door, with the diseases it can lead to, such as pneumonia and other secondary infections. It's not until these enters us, that we need help of antibiotics. It is man's first reaction to cure himself, with the help of medicine, and get better. Be germ-free! It is impossible, in reality.

When we made the move here, to South Africa, we realized the difference between a virus and a VIRUS. Some superviruses can wipe out a village - tuberculosis (a bacteria) is airborne and multiplies faster than cancer. Malaria, a mosquito transmitted bacterium can kill someone in 24 hours... not to mention cholera which is transmitted in water. All of these are not viral, but are transmitted like viruses, easily and without much to protect the underdeveloped countries.

HIV, a level 3 virus is not easily contracted. Even so, in South Africa, the nation-wide infection rate of HIV was in 2007 at 28%.

It's hard to describe to people living without an endemic virus how bad this is. One in four people in South Africa have HIV. Most of those people are black and live in townships. If you look at things this way, you can say every other person in the township has a deadly virus.

One in one hundred will admit having it.

Since it is a completely "new" virus and nearly impossible diagnose from one testing, it reproduces rampantly, by the transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate, or breast milk. The crippling effect of the virus here is ignorance and poverty.

It is also the crippling cause of contraction.

I am reminded of Dickens' Ghost of Christmas present, when saying goodbye to Ebenezer Scrooge, shows him too shivering orphans underneath his cloak. They frighten Scrooge so much, and seem so foreign an attachment to such a happy spirit that Scrooge asks, "Are these yours?" The Spirit answers, "THEY ARE MANKIND's!! The boy is ignorance and the girl is want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased." How prophetic for Dickens, seeing into a worldwide handicap that will doom us all -- not knowing, maybe not caring.

It is sad to see a world, like Scrooge, pre-occupied with their lives, their small viruses - their great challenges as well - that we forget the poor with this life-threatening thing killing off every other one of our friends here. While a few doctors and celebrities chisel off a percentage of their time and resources to dedicate a portion of themselves towards a remedy; the rest of the world can seem (to me) lost in i-pads and big screens and liposuction and implants.

In reality, the sub-human orphans cling to all of our ankles and look up at us for an anwser. Will we ever be removed from you?

Or is this a secondary infection that won't go away?