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African AIDS Altarpiece Unveiled in London


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An altarpiece that tells the story of the AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa has been unveiled in London. It was created by the people from South Africa's Keiskamma valley on the country's Eastern Cape, a region that has been particularly devastated by the spread of the virus. The altarpiece, which will be on display for the next three weeks, is not only a message of hope but a reminder to the world that AIDS continues to claim lives. VOA's Mandy Clark reports from London.

A song of hope - from a place devastated by death. These singers have come from South Africa's Keiskamma valley. It is one of the nation's poorest regions and has been hardest hit by AIDS.

The people of Keiskamma have created this enormous embroidered altarpiece as a symbol of hope and a reminder to the world of the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

The Dean of Southwark, Colin Slee, offered prayers for those suffering from the deadly disease. It is an issue that is close to his heart. "This is the only cathedral in Britain that has a chapel dedicated to praying for people with HIV and AIDS," Slee said. "And that has been here for 20 years and on a Saturday we pray particularly for people who have HIV and AIDS"

The artwork, inspired by a 16th century German altarpiece, is made up of three panels. The third one shows grandmothers with their grandchildren. It represents the social phenomenon where the care of children has largely become the responsibility of grandmothers because the parents have died of AIDS. South Africa may have as many as two million AIDS orphans under the age of 15 by the end of the decade.

Noziet Makubalu is one of the 130 women who wove together their stories to create the altarpiece. She says she hopes that people will take an uplifting message from the artwork, "We make the altarpiece so we can show everybody, we can show the world, that we are not scared for it. It is not the end of the world, life continues," Makubalu said. "And we are having the hope that one day there will be a cure that will cure the AIDS."

London is the last stop for the art piece before it returns home. For the past two years, it has traveled the globe - a symbol of the Keiskamma valley's history and the hopes of its people. Their hope is that the world is listening and can help them in the fight against AIDS.


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Information in this article was accurate in October 4, 2008. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.