04 March 2008


The 8-foot brick wall that surrounds the Coronation Women and Children's Hospital is topped by a series of rusting metal "V"s. These metal shards perched atop the sun-baked bricks serve as a cradle for a tangled, gnarled morass of rusty, foreboding barbed wire.

Rubbish gathers in the crevice that occurs where the street meets the curb. Coke cans, condom wrappers, and yesterday's newspaper battle for space with overgrown weeds and grass that invades the cracks in the asphalt.

People pass incessantly, walking in every direction. Many are students heading to school. As many of them smoke as do not. Lone men pass, clutching bottles that cling to last night's escape. Two young girls walk by, excitedly chattering in the cobbled languages that mark the area. Not one takes much notice of the old hospital.

Somewhere in the bowels of that old hospital a child is waiting nervously. She is watching a nurse prepare a syringe. The needle glistens in the sunlight that crashes in through the cracked glass of what used to be a window in the wall. That anything could be sanitary in this place is a miracle in itself. Dried drops of blood on the floor lead the eye to a wheel-chair laying on its side. Further down the hallway a bin marked with red "x"s and jagged biohazard symbols is overflowing with debris.

Prick! Eish!

Skin is broken and the glistening needle pulls blood slowly from the child's arm. This is a new sensation. It is a sensation she will soon be very used to. The needle slides out and the child grimaces. The event is over, the pain somehow incongruent with the considerable weight of the day.

The blood will be passed into a room, where it will be marked with the child's name and sent to another room where an educated face in a white coat will run a test on the contents of the vial - the same test that she runs on the little tubes of crimson life all day every day.

The results of the test will come back in three weeks and will be printed on a sheet of paper inside of a blue folder that bears the name of the child. The results will shape the entire future of the child.

"Positive" and the child will inherit her mother's taint, the unshakable stigma. The child will learn to endure the accusing stares of people whose righteousness seems to have spared them from the dreaded virus. The child will begin the battle for life. It is a battle she cannot yet win.

"Negative" and the child will walk away free, unbound to the biological catastrophe that is slowly taking her mother to the grave. The child, uninfected, will never know of the fear that once clouded her future.

Back outside the walls of the hospital, two stray dogs scavenge amidst the scraps of what lays discarded in the roadside. A young man, school-aged but obviously not heading to school, stops near the dogs, presses his face up against the brick wall, and begins to urinate. The wall changes color below him. He finishes and stammers off.

Not far away the wall has been tagged, black paint leaping from the washed-out brick. There, halfway between the rubbish and the razor-wire, is a bible verse:

1 TIMOTHY 6:10

For the people dying just inside those walls, in the crumbling towers filled with too few nurses and even fewer doctors, the "love of money" is the furthest thing from their collective mind. It is the lack of money, the inability to afford live-saving and life-sustaining medications, that is causing the inhabitants of Coronation Women and Children's Hospital, including the child with the fresh pin-prick in her arm, to slowly fade away.


  1. my heart breaks from reading that. my prayers are with aria and all those pricked and yet to be.

  2. "The love of money" is surely far from the minds of those inside the hospital walls, aside from the fact that most of them most likely would not be able to read the writing on the wall. But it is that very "love" that has them in their present predicament.

  3. Please forgive me for the comment above - let me explain...no let me sum up...

    I saw that hospital wall as a canvas that someone drew a simple picture upon...the love of money is the ONLY thing preventing those beautiful people inside the hospital from getting all of the care and medicine (including the ARVs that cost 12 cents per day) that they DESERVE...medicine that could prolong their life tremendously!! New Life!!

    I am sorry if I offended anybody out there. Please forgive the statement unexplained.

  4. thanks for clarifying.

    i think we were really hyper-sensitive after dealing with the backwards HIV/AIDS attitudes in south africa. maybe too sensitive...