The RED Badges of Courage
The Red Badges of Courage – commissioned by Elton John AIDS Foundation
”AIDS is a war against humanity. We need to break the silence, banish the stigma and discrimination and ensure total inclusiveness within the struggle against AIDS. If we discard the people living with HIV/AIDS, we can no longer call ourselves human.” – Nelson Mandela
The HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa is growing exponentially, fuelled by ignorance, poverty and promiscuity. One of the significant obstacles in conquering the spread of this intrusive killer has been stigma and fear.
In Tanzania, many primary school students are forced to wear red badges sewn onto their uniforms denoting their AIDS/HIV-positive status. When children are asked why they wear the badges, they reply, “it is because I am sick”; this is all they know. AIDS is not in their vocabulary. The badges represent a method by which teachers can identify those children at risk who would be too weak to engage in physical activity. They are motivated by the best intentions, but do not understand the profound consequences of labelling the children.
The immense sense of isolation is unimaginable; human dignity is ignored and the world stands by silently. This horrendous infringement of children’s rights is a blight on African society.