ZORIAH: AIDS in Asia
The following words and photographs are from Zoriah: During my work documenting the AIDS crisis in Asia, I had the opportunity to meet some truly incredible human beings, some of whom are still alive, most though have already died in the short period of time since the completion of this project. From the groups of urban prostitutes living and working in the slums of Phnom Penh Cambodia, teaching each other safety, survival and financial planning while setting up clinics on the average aid agencies paperclip budget, to the quiet suffering of mothers who have unknowingly passed on a disease to their children via their fathers indiscretion, these stories and these faces linger in my mind. While aid organizations give total infection rates of about one percent, caregivers, hospice staff and the people on the ground speak of certain regions reaching up to twenty five percent HIV infection rates. With a new heroin epidemic hitting urban slums and a dramatic increase in both hetero and homosexual sex tourism, the problem is expected to reach epic proportions over the next few years. Numbers and statistics are just that, nothing more than markings on paper or words on a news program, the human side however is truly disturbing. Patients wait to die alone, coated in flies and nursed by family members. Understaffed hospitals are in such disrepair that they have been deemed biohazard and HAZMAT threats and workers refuse to even enter the premises, much less make necessary repairs and provide care to patients. In several well known hospitals I found myself literally wading through ankle deep piles of disposed needles, catheter bags and soiled linens, as patents navigated hallways with potholes that dropped through to the floors below. The human suffering is quite unreal and the faces of teenage girls, mothers, fathers and small babies wasting away in discomfort still appear vivid in my mind. This photo story is dedicated to my new friends who sit quietly and wait to die, those who choose not to sit quietly but fight for the lives and the health of their friends, family, and complete strangers. This photo story should also serve as an attack on the organizations, governments, corporations and pharmaceutical giants who quite simply are doing too little.
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