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Lions Roar : March 2006
This man is telling us about the greatest tragedy in the world today. He's telling us that millions are dying, tens of millions more will die, and a continent is being destroyed. He's also telling us we can prevent it. Why Aren't We Listening to This Man? MICHAEL VALPY talks with Stephen Lewis, the UN envoy for AIDS in Africa, about his anger, despair, and obligation to speak out. IN THE COMFORTABLY CLUTTERED living room of his house in Toronto's elegant Forest Hill neighborhood, Stephen Lewis, politician, humanitarian, diplomat, international public servant, comes to the story of the coffins and the cabbage patch. "I tell it so often;' he says, almost as an aside to himself. It goes like this: It is early in 2005, and Lewis, 68, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV / AIDS in Africa, is visiting a village in ru- ral Zambia. He is invited to inspect an income- generating project created by a group of women infected with AIDS. He is led along many dusty trodden paths to a field where the women are standing, holding up a welcoming banner. The women are eager to talk to him about the men who have infected them, and what they think of such men. As the conversation progresses, Lewis notices he is standing beside a large cabbage patch. Gesturing to the cab- bages, he says, "I take it this is your income- generating project." The women say, "Yes, ab- solutely." Lewis says, "I assume it supplements your diet, makes your immune system stron- ger, makes you nutritionally more secure." The "'T " women say, les, yes. He asks, "Do you have any of the cabbages left over?" "Yes. Absolutely," say the women. He asks, "What do you do with them?" SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2006 65