Tag Archives: Aids Orphans

Generation of Orphans: South Africa’s Children of AIDS

One night in 2003, Agnes Dlamini woke to the sound of her infant grandson crying. His mother — Dlamini’s daughter-in-law — had died after a long illness. The baby was left on top of her emaciated body, sucking helplessly at his mother’s lifeless breast.

That tragedy, Dlamini now knows, is the result of South Africa’s failure to address the spread of HIV. But back then, she had no idea. At the time, the country’s President Thabo Mbeki was sympathetic to AIDS denialists. His Minister of Health was nicknamed Dr. Beetroot for championing the plant as a treatment for HIV/AIDS. Anti­retroviral drugs weren’t available until 2004 and were difficult to obtain for many years after that.

The legacy of that denial is 3.37 million South African children under 17 without one or both parents, according to a 2011 census. Most are orphans, and some 64% are in the care of grandmothers, who bear the responsibility of a second motherhood.

The age gap makes it challenging for grand­mothers to connect with these kids and warn them about HIV. “I don’t have the right words for it,” says Dlamini, 81. “My granddaughter laughs at me when I try.” High urban unemployment, poverty and crime add to the difficulty of their task. Still, many of the gogos, the Zulu word for grandmothers, say they are hopeful they can break the cycle that claimed their children’s lives.


Elles van Gelder and Jonathan Torgovnik are based in South Africa.



Stephen Shames’ Bronx Boys


© Stephen Shames

Stephen Shames spent over twenty years photographing young boys growing up in the Bronx. Although the project started as a simple photojournalism assignment, Shames quickly became fascinated by the neglected New York suburb and continued to document the vibrant streets. The fruits of his labor are finally being published as a digital monograph titled Bronx Boys (FotoEvidence). The unconventional format provides universal access to readers from around the world, as well as options to zoom in on images for close viewing.

Stephen Shames worked with Aperture for his book The Black Panthers, commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the Party. The Black Panthers Portfolio, an accompanying set of photographs is now on sale! Visit the Black Panthers microsite.

Shames is founder of Lead Uganda, which puts AIDS orphans and child soldiers into school in Uganda. He is represented by Steven Kasher Gallery, New York, and Polaris Images. He currently resides in Brooklyn.