By Michele Leight
As citizens of the 21st
century, we are constantly bombarded by an endless ticker tape
of facts, information and media hype that sometimes threatens
to blow a fuse in our mental circuits. Once in a while, however,
an astounding fact makes it through the smokescreen we create
to protect ourselves from information overload.
According to many global health and security experts, (including
UNAIDS and the CIA), 100 million people will be living with HIV/AIDS
By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, our world
will also inherit 40 million AIDS orphans. At present, no one
has any idea who is going to take care of them.
One hundred million human beings and 40 million children orphaned
by an incurable but preventable disease. That is an almost incomprehensible
statistic, but it is perhaps inevitable that it will soon become
a reality we will all be facing.
In an attempt to raise awareness for this impending catastrophe,
The Asia Society (www.asiasource.org) hosted a panel discussion on May
12th, 2004 entitled "The Next AIDS Generation: Orphans in
Asia and the World." The featured speakers were experts in
fields related to HIV/AIDS, and Peter McDermott, Global Chief
of the HIV/AIDS Section for UNICEF (www.unicef.org) arrived directly from the airport, having
spent the morning in London speaking with the British Government
The panelists included Dr. Nafis Sadik, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS
in Asia; Sara Sievers, Director of advocacy and programs on orphans
and vulnerable children at the Association Francois-Xavier Bagnoud;
Chung To, Founder and Chairperson of Chi Heng Foundation; Dr.
Steven Wang, Founder and President of the China AIDS Orphan Fund
(COAF); and David Gartner, Policy Director for the Global AIDS
Although it is unconventional to quote the last speaker first,
David Gartner of the Global AIDS Alliance ( www.globalaidsalliance.org ) summed up the gravity of the situation:
"This is quite simply the moral crisis of our time. But it's
not only that, it's also a national security crisis, one that
frankly gets far too little attention in a world where attention
is focused elsewhere, on other issues. Colin Powell gets it. He
said 'AIDS is worse than any act of terrorism or than any weapon
of mass destruction.' Quite frankly, I would argue it's the biggest
threat we face in the next generation. And the orphans' crisis
is the sort of terrible and natural extension of the AIDS crisis.
Every fourteen seconds another child becomes an orphan because
of AIDS. And if you look down the road to that hundred million
infected by the end of the decade you can only imagine how many
millions and hundreds of millions of orphans we potentially could
have in the world."
The Global AIDS Alliance is a Washington-based organization dedicated
to achieving a comprehensive response to the global HIV/AIDS crisis
which seems for the most part to have escaped the notice of the
world's wealthiest nations including the tragic plight of children
orphaned by AIDS. Mr. Gartner has played a leading role in drafting
The Assistance for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children in Developing
Countries Act (H.R. 4061), currently before Congress.
All the panelists at The Asia Society program were united for
the evening in an effort to educate what must seem to them to
be a pathologically inert and disinterested public as AIDS cuts
down villages and communities in sub-Saharan Africa and now marches
onward in China and India, two countries with the largest populations
in the world.
After each speaker, I found
myself picturing the written history of the 21st century. I imagined
the perplexed gaze of my future grandchild as he or she brought
out the history book and questioned the universal unwillingness
of our generation to act to what the historian described as the
most detached response by civilized mankind to a disease that
is incurable and deadly, but at the same time preventable;
a disease that can be passed to anyone, but which is known specifically
to spread vertically to an unborn baby in the womb, during childbirth
and through breast milk, unless the mother is given medication
in advance. In most cases, these mothers lived below the poverty
line in developing nations and did not know they were passing
the deadly virus to their babies. But we did.
The 20th and 21st Century history book will certainly contain
proclamations of wars won and lost; wars that cost billions of
dollars, killing far fewer people than were being decimated by
AIDS in towns and villages on neighboring soil and in faraway
countries; deaths which might have been prevented at a fraction
of the cost of bombs and WMDs.
Historically, it might be interpreted that we chose to look the
other way from widespread and unnecessary suffering because there
was no urgent problem in our own country although one million
Americans live with HIV/AIDS - and because there was no territorial,
financial, or political advantage to be gained by intervening.
From a historical perspective, this may well be cited as one of
the greatest miscalculations of our generation, because AIDS is
now predicted to be one of the greatest threats to the national
security of powerful nations like the United States.
The historians will write that the spread of AIDS was also due
to millions of promiscuous heterosexual and gay men - not just
gay men - men with long term, faithful partners, because "grazing"
(multiple relationships) while in committed relationships is now
rated the number one cause of the rapid spread of the AIDS virus;
promiscuity is the main reason why the most assiduous attempts
to control the spread of the virus by health experts is being
thwarted in South Africa, the country with the highest number
of AIDS infections.
In contrast "zero grazing" in countries like Uganda
has resulted in an almost 50 percent drop in the spread of HIV/AIDS
infections, which is a message imbued with hope for those who
do wish to protect themselves and their families from one
of the greatest scourges mankind has ever faced.
Moralistic and judgmental attitudes towards those who have acquired
the virus through "sexual misconduct," or drug abuse,
are the chief reasons for our cumulative neglect of those who
now live with the disease. No matter what spin is put on our avoidance
of the subject of AIDS, it is perceived by the "moral majority"
as a deserved punishment for promiscuity and excess. And, for
better or worse, the moral majority has enormous clout, most everywhere
in the world today.
There is much to be gained and a great deal to be feared and regretted
in moralistic attitudes. Both good and bad come from beliefs that
penalize wrong-doers like rapists and pedophiles, but at the same
time indict women who have been faithful their entire married
lives but were unlucky enough to get AIDS from a promiscuous spouse
- and then pass it on to their baby.
History will be ruthless with us when it comes to AIDS and the
unborn and newborn. For anyone who has seen the beds filled with
tiny infants attached to tubes in hospitals in developing nations,
sucking in air and clutching at life but dying every day, there
is no reason to believe that history will spare us. We might end
up branded the most callous society that ever lived. For a cost
of a few dollars, mothers can receive AZT and Nevipirene prior
to birth, and the infant is spared a life of suffering.
However one chooses to deal with people afflicted with HIV/AIDS,
it is clear that women everywhere had better watch their backs
and protect themselves and their unborn children until the world
wakes up to AIDS.
A June 13, 2004 article in The New York Times Magazine
by Helen Epstein describes the effect of widespread national commitment
to ending the domination of a virus that threatens the stability
of the citizens of Uganda:
"In 1986 the Ugandan Ministry of Health started a vigorous
H.I.V.- prevention campaign in which the slogans "Love Carefully,"
"Love Faithfully," and "Zero Grazing," Ugandan
slang for 'Don't have sexual partners outside the home' were posted
on public buildings, broadcast on radio and bellowed in speeches
across the country. Religious leaders scouted the Bible and Koran
for quotations about infidelity. Newspapers, theatres, singing
groups and ordinary people spread the same message."
Helen Epstein hit on another key factor that is vital to disarming
the successful spread of HIV/AIDS:
"Uganda's women's movement, one of the oldest and most dynamic
in Africa, galvanized around issues of domestic abuse, rape and
H.I.V. The anger of the activists, and the eloquent sorrow
of women throughout the country who nursed the sick and helped
neighbors cope, was a harsh reproach to promiscuous men. So was
their gossip, a highly efficient method of spreading any public
Uganda has successfully reversed the spread of HIV/AIDS, which
has resulted in a dramatic drop in new infections, especially
For nations like India, with arranged marriages and promiscuity,
and a high prevalence of rape, prostitution and domestic abuse,
there is hope in the dramatic turn around in AIDS infections in
Uganda. Women must mobilize fast to prevent the kind of disaster
we are seeing in Africa.
Eighty percent of India's AIDS infections are heterosexually transmitted,
and 40 percent of the total HIV/AIDS infections exist in women
most of them monogamous.
Besides strong national commitment and active women's groups,
there is also the saving grace for millions already infected with
HIV/AIDS of help from meaningful AIDS organizations and partnerships
- and the commitment of many members of the press, like Elizabeth
Rosenthal. At The Asia Society panel discussion on AIDS Orphans,
Dr. Steven Wang and Chung To took great care to spell this out.
Chung To, founder and chairperson of the Chi Heng Foundation,
a charitable organization based in Hong Kong working on AIDS prevention
and care, said:
"I really want to thank Elizabeth Rosenthal of The New
York Times because without her article," (the same article
that galvanized Dr. Steven Wang into action to found the China
AIDS Orphan Fund), "I think I wouldn't be able to hook up
with Steven, and Steven wouldn't be able to do all the great work.
I think she is here as well."
Chung To then continued to give what was probably the most disturbing
information of the evening:
"In the AIDS epidemic landscape of China, one place called
Henan stands out. During the early to mid 90s, many peasants in
that area sold blood and because of the unsanitary practice, many
of them got HIV. And now, ten years after that, a lot of them
have died and are getting sick. In 1998, they (the government)
cracked down on illegal blood collection stations and confiscated
over 6,000 bags of blood. And through a random testing of them,
99 out of the 101 bags were HIV positive."
In unison, a gasp of disbelief went up from the audience, most
of which had no idea of China's blood selling and blood buying
practices in the past, which have now been outlawed.
"And today," continued Chung To, "in some of the
areas we are talking about as high as 60 percent of the adult
population in some villages who are HIV positive. And those are
also the productive force of the village."
It was shocking to discover while writing another story on the
global AIDS epidemic some years ago, that these Henan farmers
were so poor they could not afford the re-payments on their homes,
so they sold their blood to the blood collection stations, (some
of them government run), situated in the region. The needed blood
products were extracted from the blood pool, and the rest was
re-injected into the donors often using the same needle, because
many farmers and their wives had become so weakened from continuous
blood selling. Many of the donors in Henan were women, because
the men needed their strength to work in labor-intensive jobs.
Another discovery at The Asia Society panel discussion is that
education for children is not free in China, even though it is
a Communist country; this places parents devastated by AIDS and
unable to work in a double-jeopardy situation. Who is going to
pay the school fees while they are ill and after they die?
"People who donated blood at that time were also people in
their 20s, 30s and 40s. If you are talking about 60 percent of
the adults having HIV, you are also talking about 60 percent of
the children being orphaned by AIDS as well."
A veteran of the Chinese AIDS epidemic, Chung To put a face on
the disease in his country:
"I've noticed a few trends. I've been to Henan 16, 17 times
over the past two years. One is that the grandparents are assuming
the role of the parents after the middle generation was wiped
out. These are [photos of] grandchildren living with the grandparents.
They are not siblings of each other, they are cousins of each
other. The grandparents had four children, all four got HIV. Two
have already died and two more are dying."
Photographs of families minus the middle generation illustrated
Chung To's comments. In many cases, the oldest child of afflicted
families, perhaps 15 or 16 years old, became the head of household,
assuming all the responsibilities of dead or dying parents.
"Reconstructed families" also take the place of traditional
families as shown in a photograph taken by Chung To:
"The man is the father of three children (one is not seen
here). They got together not because they are romantically in
love, but because of survival. I think we see this in Africa as
well, a lot of provisional families. I admire the children a lot
because they not only have to bear the physical burden of doing
the housework and making dinner but also the emotional burden
of helplessly seeing the deaths of their parents in front of them.
Most of us do not have to deal with the passing away of our parents
until we are 40 or 50 years old."
Chung To gave the most moving commentary on behalf of AIDS orphans
"Many people have asked me why I've chosen to work on the
orphans in that area. I think there are many reasons. Orphans
will affect the future social stability tremendously. If China
admits it has a million people living with HIV or people with
HIV or died of AIDS...we are also talking about close to a million
or more children impacted by AIDS. If they cannot get an education
now, if they are not being cared for, when they grow up they will
be gangsters and street kids, move to big cities. Most of them
are HIV negative for 60-70 years to come, therefore creating a
huge force for social instability. There is also a sense of urgency
because the numbers are growing quickly and there is only a narrow
window of opportunity for helping them because if they have missed
school for a few semesters, it is hard for them to get back'"
Chung To explained the comfort it offers dying parents to know
that their children will at least continue with schooling after
"I know I'm hopeless. I know I'm dying, but I'm very concerned
about my children. If I know my children can go to school, I can
die in peace," an infected parent said.
Chung To expressed the implications of neglecting these orphaned
"Providing schooling for these children would give them daily
structure but would also 'send a message to these orphans, who
might have a lot of hatred in them, thinking that the world is
not fair to them and that their parents died unnecessarily, that
there is love and hope in the world. That someone they do not
know is giving them an education and hopefully they will reciprocate
when they grown up. Also, education for the next generation is
a social resources investment.'"
Chung To's Chi Heng Foundation and Dr. Steven Wangs "China
AIDS Orphan Fund" actively seek funding that enables young
orphans in China to receive an education if their parents are
too ill to work or have died from HIV/AIDS.
David Gartner returned to the broader issue of orphans:
"So first, why is there reason for hope? Well to take the
AIDS pandemic. Only a decade ago, people weren't paying any attention
frankly. And it wasn't clear what could be done, to many. A couple
of things have changed. One is the emergence of political will
round this question, particularly around AIDS, hopefully soon
around orphans. Second, the dramatic decrease in the price of
medicines, which can keep people alive, dropped to a dollar a
day. This didn't happen by accident, this happened through lots
of hard work by activists and others. It is now as low as 37 cents
under what the Clinton Foundation has negotiated with generic
producers in India and elsewhere. So, for less than a dollar a
day, people can be kept alive. The third reason is that there
are new mechanisms out there, new models of how to respond to
this crisis. One I want to talk about a bit is the Global Fund
to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The reason that's so
important is because it's particularly giving some attention to
the crisis in China, in India, and elsewhere."
The experts on the panel warned that the AIDS epidemic is still
in its infancy.
"Last year" said David Gartner, "the President
made a path-breaking announcement at the State of the Union. Congress
decided to pass legislation, and, frankly, Congress went beyond
the President in its level of funding both overall and for the
In addition to this law, two Congress people, Dana Rohrbacher,
(a Conservative from California), and Betty McCollum (from the
Twin Cities in Minnesota), decided that it was important to take
on the AIDS orphans crisis as well. They introduced an amendment
that proposed the allocation of ten percent of the proposed global
AIDS funding to deal with the orphans crisis. The amendment passed,
which signaled the beginning of political will around the AIDS
Laws are vital to changing the status quo on AIDS for millions
suffering around the world, and that includes political will and
leadership in the countries that are worst afflicted, not just
the United States. All nations become vulnerable when millions
of their citizens die a lingering death in the prime of their
lives, not just developing nations. India, for example, is the
only democracy in the region, with a vast population now threatened
by a deadly disease.
The reality is that despite the valiant efforts of global health
agencies, NGOs and concerned individuals, currently the spread
of the AIDS epidemic is outpacing our response to it as a global
community: 40 million adults with HIV/AIDS and 13 million orphans
is an extraordinary number of human beings. The panelists at The
Asia Society informed us that the net result will be millions
more infections and deaths and a significant increase in numbers
of orphans as parents across the globe succumb to AIDS.
In the first decade of the 21st century more human beings will
become infected with or killed by a deadly virus than were killed
by all the wars of the 20th century. The AIDS epidemic is in its
infancy and Peter McDermott, Global Chief of HIV/AIDS Division,
UNICEF, who had flown in from London and arrived directly from
the airport warned:
"The situation globally for HIV/AIDS is disastrous and people
get tired of me saying that the worst is yet to come."
McDermott said that sub-Saharan Africa, representing 70 percent
of the grim statistics, is currently bearing the brunt of the
epidemic. However, he went on to describe the early warning signals
in India and China:
"Globally, an HIV/AIDS pandemic in Asia will impact in a
much more significant way because of the difference, between the
percentage increase of one percent in India or China, and will
dwarf anything that we have seen in sub-Saharan Africa."
"The pandemic, in Asia as well as most other parts of the
world, is young people," he said. " Of the 6,000 people
currently getting infected every day, half are young people. Increasingly
there is a female face, and this is particularly evident in sub-Saharan
Africa but also in India."
"For children, what we are seeing is that there is a greater
disparity now between a child who is orphaned and a child who
is orphaned because of HIV/AIDS and other poor children, in some
of these crucial areas. And the evidence on the orphan generation
published by UNICEF and by others shows this disparity on nutrition,
healthcare, and massively on psychosocial impact," said Peter
India and China have populations of 1 billion and 1.2 billion,
While the implications for India in particular are severe, Peter
McDermott offered hope:
"In Asia, one would hope, that the status of the health service,
the status of the education service, the government's ability
to provide welfare, social welfare, etc, especially in countries
like India, is quite developed. The question is, can they withstand
the shock of a significant additionality on their social welfare,
social education systems?"
McDermott also made reference to the increase in political will
"In Asia over the last few years we've had a number of successes,
thanks to Nafis (Sadik) and many other colleagues, in getting
global leaders in Asia the prime ministers, presidents, high personalities
to come together. There has been a significant response by the
Buddhist community, and that has been due to the hard work of
Robert Bennoun and others. And I think that in India we are starting
to see quite a successful rollout of mother-to-child programs
where we can, because we have the technology, dramatically reduce
infection between parent and child."
Mr. McDermott said there was cause for extreme concern in the
5,000 percent increase in HIV/AIDS in Estonia, Ukraine and Russia,
"where we have a severe problem."
Although HIV/AIDS is predominantly transmitted through sexual
intercourse without the use of protection condoms by the infected
partner, intravenous drug use is "the fast track" for
the virus, because it is planted right in the veins and then moves
without impediment through the bloodstream, wreaking havoc in
record time. This is why the virus has spread so virulently and
fast in Russia, Estonia and the Ukraine. These populations have
no information about the hazards of needle-sharing, and no clean
needle programs to save the lives of those who know they should
use them but who shoot up drugs intravenously anyway due to severe
addiction, depression and despair due to lack of job prospects.
Due to denial on the part of the Chinese government in the past
and the practice of blood selling, HIV/AIDS has had a disastrous
effect upon certain populations of rural China, which Dr. Stephen
Wang, founder and President of the China AIDS Orphan's Fund drew
to the attention of the audience at The Asia Society. Wang described
the impact of reading a New York Times article by Elizabeth
Rosenthal, entitled "AIDS Scourge in Rural China Leaves Villages
of Orphans," on August 25th, 2003.
"This is a section," said Mr. Wang:
"200 villages of 600 families have one parent dead and another
ill, often too frail to work or even rise from bed; they receive
little government help; experts say the blow dealt by AIDS to
villages like Donghu has been sharper and crueler than anywhere
else in the world because of the unusual and efficient way the
disease has spread there; in the 1990s, nearly the entire adult
population of some villages was infected almost simultaneously
as poor farmers flocked en masse to sell their blood at blood
collection stations whose unsterile practices introduced hefty
doses of HIV directly into their veins; now victims are falling
ill and dying, almost in unison.'
Dr. Wang brought home the misery of the child orphaned at a young
age through photographs taken on a recent trip to China:
"These are some pictures illustrating kids watching their
parents dying. And this is a child, sitting in front of the cemetery
of both parents. And those stones right here are the cemetery's
housing the remains of the dead, often affected by the AIDS virus.
In view of this health crisis, we decided to start the China AIDS
Orphan Fund" (www.chinaaidsorphanfund.org).
Steven Wang mentioned the creation of the Living Dreams in
a Dying Village art/documentary exhibit in conjunction with
Chung To of the Chi Heng Foundation (www.chihengfoundation.org), including winsome drawings and
essays by children describing their hopes and dreams: typical
titles and themes were "Doctor is treating patient"
and "Tomorrow will be a much better day." With children,
hope springs eternal.
In describing the grass roots awareness and prevention methods
used in India by the organization for which she works, the Association
Francois-Xavier Bagnoud, (www.afxb.org),
Sara Sievers demonstrated that even in the serious atmosphere
of AIDS prevention, humor finds a place.
A barber in India came up to the head of the organization and
"'Countess, if you really want to spread the word, you need
to be active in barber shops.' Now who would have thought? It
turns out, that in the places where she was, the kind of discussions
men have when they're getting their hair cut are the kind of discussions
that probably need to have a little bit of AIDS prevention thrown
in for good measure. We would never have known that from the outside,
or it would have been unlikely, but this barber felt very empowered
to come right up and explain what was going on, what was needed,
and how to focus efforts."
This became known within AFXB, (which is primarily funded by the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), as The Barber Intervention
and it launched a whole initiative within the organization. In
addition to targeting the children of sex-workers, migrant workers
and truckers in India, populations especially vulnerable to contracting
HIV/AIDS, AFXB also focus their efforts on fishing communities,
bars, pubs and wine shops, trying to spread prevention and AIDS
In an interesting alternative to traditional one-on-one counseling,
AFXB have initiated a technological approach tele-counseling.
This is particularly valuable in societies that are less inclined
to seek AIDS awareness counseling in a public forum due to the
stigma associated with the disease and the possibility of ostracization.
This is no ordinary fear. A recent Wall Street Journal
report on AIDS prevention efforts by the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation in India stated that a woman had been stoned to death
in a village in rural India when she admitted to being HIV-positive.
As the evening drew to a close, David Gartner focused on the necessity
of treatment and keeping parents alive to avoid the tragedy of
increasing numbers of orphans, and the importance of education
for the next generation:
"One of the biggest barriers to the adoption of AIDS orphans
is that nobody wants to pay the fees because public schools don't
exist in much of the world. Nobody wants to pay the fees that
it takes for them to go to school. So AIDS orphans are left with
a double bind. They can't afford to go to school in much of the
world and nobody wants to adopt them because they don't want to
take on the financial burden. They are part of a broader group,
mostly girls, but that's over 100 million kids who never step
into school for the first day."
What happens to young girls without education or job prospects
in the developing world is no secret for anyone who has lived
there, and one has only to imagine the tragedy ahead when millions
of female orphans are added to the growing numbers of disenfranchised
'girl children,' including young sex-workers and millions of street
Diverting for a moment to a discussion paper accompanying the
Third Asia Policy Workshop and the fourth WHR Rivers Symposium
held at Harvard University (May 6-8, 2004) entitled "Social
Development, Social Policy and HIV/AIDS in China," co-authors
Andy West and Kate Wedgewood of Save the Children UK China Program
"The easiest and 'gut' response of many agencies is to rescue
or save children from their perceived predicament. Such a rescue
attempt without full analysis may result in children entering
worse circumstances. For example, preventing children being involved
in labor work has led to some having to enter exploitive work
(such as sex work) in order to survive. The question of
what is in the best interests of the child must be taken into
account in individual cases and through broader analysis of local
situations when policy and practice is being planned. The notion
of duty bearers (adults responsible for the children) seeks also
to look at the broader picture. For example, the development for
street children, that enables them to attend school, has led in
some places to poorer families 'abandoning' their children so
that they are taken in by these shelters in order to access education.
A better response might be to find a way of funding education
that does not require families to pay fees: there is a duty on
governments to realize children's rights to education."
Millions of children in India, mostly girls, have never set foot
inside a school. In a dark, repetitive pattern, Andy West and
Kate Wedgwood also wrote:
In contrast (to circumstances of HIV/AIDS related to blood selling)
on the borders of China, in the north-west and south-west, where
routes of transmission of HIV/AIDS have predominantly taken different
forms, there are other concerns, such as the susceptibility of
children to the use of drugs (taken intravenously) and the exploitation
of under-18s in sex work."
Nafis Sadik touched on one of the most important points of the
evening: the harsh reality of acceptable male behavior in Asia
and much of the developing world and the deadly implications for
millions of endangered women and children:
"I think we have to remember that in many of our societies,
male risky behavior is condoned or even accepted and is considered
macho, but it is the female behavior that is not. And many women
especially in South Asia but also in Southern Africa are getting
HIV infection from their spouses. And all the data, for example,
in Asia, South Asia, shows that 95 percent of them have just the
one partner, but the infections come from that one partner. And
they have got it from somewhere else."
Chung To was asked to describe the reaction of the local Chinese
government by a member of the audience when he ventured into rural
villages to offer help to the afflicted. For years China denied
it had an AIDS problem, but the government changed its policy
after numerous lead editorials in highly regarded western newspapers
highlighting China's AIDS menace and the disastrous effect of
the outbreak of SARS.
"Two years ago they were not very welcoming," said Chung
To. "You must understand that a lot of them do not want the
situation exposed. This is not like Hunan, where people got HIV
mainly through IV drug use or sex work, which are individual actions.
Many of these peasants got HIV through giving blood, some of them
through government-owned blood stations. So the government felt
they were more responsible for what happened. So even the Premier
and Vice Premier admitted that there was a cover-up at that time,
and that there was a lot of mishandling."
"But now it is getting easier," he added, "but
I am still cautious....The bottom line is to help the children.
To me, AIDS in Henan is like a fire. It's still burning, and my
priority is to save the people out of the fire, as much as possible.
Finding out who the arsonist was is not my concern. And frankly,
even if we persecute arsonists and put them in jail, it's not
going to help the people who are dying and the orphans who are
not getting an education."
Chung To described a situation where grandparents had lost 5 of
their 6 children to AIDS, only one survived:
"'What keeps you going?' he asked them, 'I mean it is such
a disaster for your family.' And the grandparents still had to
work very hard to make a living and to take care of all the grandchildren.
And they said: 'The grandchildren, the future, our hope. I know
all my children have died of AIDS or are dying of AIDS. I know
all my children will be wiped out by AIDS, but I still have hope
because I have the grandchildren.'"