Winstone Zulu has shared his story many times, but every time is difficult.
"I don't really know where to start, but I will start at the beginning," he said, as he addressed a group of Calgarians on Sat., Nov. 12.
Zulu was the guest speaker at a fundraising breakfast for RESULTS Canada, a non-profit organization advocating increased spending on international development issues, including AIDS and tuberculosis. AIDS and AIDS-related tuberculosis are taking a devastating toll on Africa, and both are epidemics which Zulu has experienced.
Born in 1964, Zulu was the ninth of 13 children. He contracted polio at the age of three from exposure to a contaminated needle. Zulu overcame the disease, but never fully recovered from the paralysis of his entire body. In his teenage years, the Zambian native was a good student, despite being constantly ill.
"I won a scholarship to study in the Soviet Union," he said. "When I took the medical exam for travelling, they told me I was HIV positive."
Since then, the activist has travelled the world, seeking support in the fight against AIDS and TB in Africa. Reflecting on his experiences in Canada, Zulu recalled visiting a graveyard in Montreal and remembered his surprise at how quiet it was.
"At home, the graveyard is the noisiest place because they are busy from seven in the morning to six in the evening," said Zulu. "They dig holes for the bodies all night because during the day there is just not enough time."
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS reported that in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2.3 million people died of AIDS in 2004. With just over 10 per cent of the world's population, the area is home to over 60 per cent of all people living with AIDS worldwide. Zulu reiterated the need for support.
"If your neighbour's house is on fire, you will help him," he said. "It's the human thing to do."
University of Calgary professor Dr. Edna Einsiedel stressed that international development should occur on many different levels.
"It's not only the United Nations or government policy that will create a difference," said Einsiedel. "Students must be aware of the extent of the problem. Learning on a small scale will get people educated."
Zulu ended abruptly, emphasizing that he will continue telling his story for as long as he is alive.