epidemics

Calling My Children: Beyond the Photos

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HIV/AIDS is a deadly disease that in the United States alone has killed over 600,000 people and still kills about 15,000 more each year [1].  In Nepal, a small country with a population of about 27 million (the equivalent of 4 New York Cities), has about 49,000 people currently living with HIV and 4,100 deaths due to AIDS in 2012 [2]. As of 2010, it is estimated that over 34 million people were living with HIV globally (though in 2012 the WHO estimates that it’s closer to 35.3 million), with 2.7 million new infections and 1.8 million deaths of AIDS-related illnesses [3].  Needless to say it is one of the most major and significant pandemics of our lifetime and is representative of many facets of international health disparities, as morbidity and mortality rates have often been correlated with social, economic, and even political factors (if WHO guidelines were met by 2015, over 4.2 new infections could be averted and 2 million lives saved [4]).  But, an interesting fact, no one has ever died from the actual HIV virus.  Most deaths from people living with HIV/AIDS are attributed to secondary infections, some even as innocuous as the common cold, that became lethal because of patients’ compromised immune systems.  So here’s the tricky part about AIDS: even though the virus living inside you is not what is going to kill you, it makes it so that practically any other pathogen might.  The life of someone with untreated or poorly treated AIDS consists of infection after infection after infection, with simple bugs that most people would not even notice making them bedridden and sometimes even on the brink of death.

David Binder, a nationally-acclaimed photographer, has followed this life for almost a decade, documenting the last year of life of a 27 year-old woman named Gail and the impact her death had on her family 10 years after her death.  These photographs later turned into a documentary called Calling My Children which, since its release in 2012, has been aired on national public television and screened in numerous  locations, including the United States Capitol.  Because of this work, AIDS advocacy is stronger than ever before and Gail’s family has been receiving support from ordinary citizens across the country.

To support David Binder’s continued efforts to document Gail’s legacy and advocate on the behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS everywhere, make a donation to the project here.

For more information or to explore David’s work, please refer to the website for Calling My Children and share Gail’s story so that her legacy can continue.

Gail Farrow’s story has profoundly resonated with diverse audiences through its presentation in magazines and exhibitions. This is a rare view of the bonds of family love that are both torn apart and endure through the ordeal of AIDS. The most powerful dramas are the ones where we can see ourselves and our loved ones. The story of Gail and her family gives us the opportunity for recognition and empathy.” [5]

Sources:

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/HIVFactSheets/TodaysEpidemic-508.pdf

[2] http://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/nepal/

[3] http://www.worldaidscampaign.org/2011/11/unaids-world-aids-day-report-2011/

[4] http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2011/WHO_HIV_11.03_eng.pdf

[5] http://www.callingmychildren.com/about/