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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
SUMMER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 59 THANISSARA international lobby groups to get the South African govern ment to roll out its own antiretroviral program. TAC and other nonprofits also took on the pharmaceutical industry over the unrealistic cost of these lifesaving drugs. When we first arrived in South Africa, it was in the midst of euphoria as the country made its relatively peaceful transi tion from apartheid to democracy. However, our experience of the “Rainbow Nation” soon became more muddied as we encountered layers of wounding left in the wake of apart heid, which had sharply divided a whole nation, leaving a strange dissonance created by people living in parallel but completely different worlds. The white world had its place names, streets, cities, tidy houses with lawns, and flower beds; the black world was dust roads, shacks, and location num bers shrouded in invisibility. In rural KwaZulu Natal, where Dharmagiri is located, we were confronted by an entrenched economic disparity between whites and blacks. The “home lands” (also called “locations”) of the black communities had scant resources save a few overcrowded mission schools and health facilities. The unemployment in these areas is still father and a brother recently returned from jail. Next month is a long way away, never mind the consequences of HIV infec tion in ten years’ time. So why plan for that? As the process lurched through alcoholic episodes, visits to the clinic to stand in hopeless lines, consultations with Sipho’s girlfriend who was also infected, taking their sick baby to hospital, a midnight suicide attempt, and more queues at the clinic, miraculously the rural mission hospital started an anti retroviral rollout. The program was funded by an overseas non governmental organization that was one of many emerging nonprofits trying to respond to the burgeoning crisis. We man aged to get Sipho signed up. He was lucky. Many struggling with infection have no access to treatment or choose to die quietly rather than be tested and suffer the shame of social stigma. Sipho is just one of millions of South Africans whose lives have been affected by the AIDS pandemic that cruelly swept across the land soon after the victory over apartheid. At the time that Jabulani approached us, the South African govern ment was in deep denial about the farreaching consequences of AIDS. It took ten years of legal battles undertaken by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and heavy pressure from (Above) Buddha statue at the Buddhist Retreat Center in KwaZulu, where Thanissara and Kittisaro served as spiritual directors from 1995 to 2000 TOMASCAMPHER (Circled above) Thanissara and Kittisaro’s work focuses on an area of KwaZulu Natal, one of the poorest provinces in South Africa (Opposite) Dancers at the launch of the Khuphuka (“Rise Up”) Project in KwaZulu, South Africa