Dorothy McCabe

(Zimbabwe, 1996)

“When I was there, there was just a general acceptance that nobody talked about HIV and AIDS and if you did, you talked about TB-3. They were calling it TB-3, a new strain of tuberculosis”

By Kate Wilson

When Crossroader Dorothy McCabe went to Zimbabwe, she was given the task of talking to students at a boarding school about HIV/AIDS in a country that was still not comfortable acknowledging it.

It was 1996 and despite being instructed by the Ministry of Education to talk to their students about AIDS, teachers were uncomfortable doing so. McCabe believes this was partly due to cultural norms – Africans don’t like to deliver bad news.

“We were told you had to come at it three of four different times in sort of roundabout ways and then gradually broach the subject,” says McCabe.

Even the government would refer to the disease by another name.

“They were calling it TB-3, a new strain of tuberculosis,” says McCabe. “When I was there, there was just a general acceptance that nobody talked about HIV and AIDS and if you did, you talked about TB-3.”

McCabe went into classrooms to teach young students about HIV/AIDS using a variety of exercises. She also answered questions the children had regarding sex — or whatever else that was on their minds.

“We would do these little charts so here you are – draw a person’s face – and okay, if you have sex with two people and they have had sex with four people,[what does that look like?]” says McCabe. “[We would] draw out this whole kind of chart and so suddenly one becomes a hundred.”

After meeting with the officials from the Ministry of Education, she sat down with teachers to discuss ways to teach the children about prevention.

Despite the resistance of the teachers to broach the subject of HIV/AIDS, McCabe hopes that the children remembered what they learned.

Upon returning to Canada, McCabe has continued to volunteer and support CCI.

“I just think in my insular privileged little world here in Canada it’s a way, with the small monetary donations that I make, it’s still a way to try to be connected to something bigger and to our bigger global village,” she says, “and if I can’t directly make an impact then I hope the money I can give and the contributions I can give are helping someone else to do that, make an impact of some sort.”

 

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