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title: ethical business

HIV/AIDS project for sculptors in Zimbabwe

Too many lives are being lost needlessly in Zimbabwe to AIDS and promising sculpture careers cut short. Guruve decided we'd like to try to help change things...

Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. It is estimated at around 40% but could be higher - infection rates and deaths from full-blown AIDS are poorly reported because of the stigma that the disease carries. People are afraid to admit they are infected for fear of being shunned by society and becoming a burden to their family. Often their deaths are recorded as being due to the opportunistic infections that exploit the weakening of the immune system by the virus, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Given these astonishingly high HIV prevalence rates, we have been slightly surprised that, in over a decade of doing business in Zimbabwe, fewer than ten of the sculptors we know have passed away due to AIDS. However, things came to a head in 2009 when one of our top artists, Kennedy Phiri, passed away after being poorly for many years but never admitting to being HIV positive.

We were astonished to discover that the antiretroviral drugs, which minimise the effects of HIV and extend life expectancy hugely, are provided for free in Zimbabwe. So once someone has tested positive, they go onto a waiting list and within months can get free treatment for the disease. They won't be a burden to their family and the stigma of the infection is completely unnecessary. Testing positive for HIV infection is no longer a death sentence.

And yet most people in Zimbabwe still refuse to have the test, for fear of a positive result. They would rather not know - and they put their lives, and those of their sexual partners, at risk rather than have infection confirmed.

People in Zimbabwe are dying of shame and embarassment and it is completely preventable and very sad.

We decided to try to improve the situation in conjunction with the Chitungwiza Arts Centre.

Chitungwiza Arts Centre for sculptors in Zimbabwe

The Arts Centre has a strong sense of its place within the community and has done many things over the years to reach out to the wider community. Senior members were also very concerned about the needless waste that deaths from AIDS constitute. Together, we have made a plan and Guruve has provided the initial funding to get the project off the ground.

  • All the artists at the Arts Centre will go to get tested, in groups so they have mutual support
  • Those who have already been tested, particularly those who are HIV positive and on antiretrovirals, will support those who get a positive result
  • The Arts Centre members will talk about AIDS, both to each other and to the wider community, to reduce the stigma that it carries
  • Guruve's financial support will also be used to feed recuperating artists - once on the retroviral drug course, the wasted body needs a huge amount of food as it builds up strength

We pride ourselves on doing business the way it should be done. We have made many friends in Chitungwiza and we care tremendously if they die a preventable death. Let's hope this project will set an example within Zimbabwe for how less embarassment and more open communication can save lives in the future.

Related links:
Ethical business - Guruve is more than fair trade
The Guruve story - who's behind the name and why do we do this?
Guruve's donations - quantifying how we have helped over the years
Sponsored workshop for artists and schoolchildren in Bulawayo
Zimbabwean sculptors - our support for the Chitungwiza Arts Centre
Arts Centre Gallery donation - Guruve funds the rebuild in 2015
Shona sculpture movement - Zimbabwe's art history



Sculpture by Zimbabwean artist Antony Masamba

title: haunted love