This is Khanya, an eight-year-old boy from the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. To hear his medical history is to marvel at how one eight year old boy can so perfectly and tragically demonstrate the vicious circle of poverty and disease.
Khanya was born HIV+. His mother did not have access to drugs that could have prevented him getting the virus. But he was a brilliant student – all his school marks are 10 out of 10’s, time after time, subject after subject.
Khanya lives with his Granny, Nozolile, and younger brother, Azake. Khayna is the apple of his granny’s eye; she tells stories of how he made her tea, drew her pictures and danced for her. Her words describe an adorable, playful, thoughtful and intelligent child.
As you approach the house in which they live, you are struck first by the beautiful scenery and calm vista. Then you begin to hear the gnawing wail of a child in constant pain. The visceral noise pierces your ears, your brain and your heart in a way that makes you flinch and frown, as if you have an instant basic sensation that something is very, very wrong.
Six months ago, Khanya contracted Tuberculosis (TB). His immune system had been so weakened by HIV that he couldn’t fight the infection, and it reached his brain.
With no access to medication, and little food to feed his thin (wasted, withered) body, Khanya’s condition got worse. The dual onslaught of the HIV and TB has made this child into a crippled and emaciated shadow.
The nearest medical clinic is miles from here, but Nozolile wraps up her grandson and carries him there. But as the Eastern Cape is one of South Africa’s poorest regions, medical supplies are few and far between. It is difficult to get Khanya the treatment he so desperately needs.
Khanya is totally bed ridden and dependent on his Granny. He watches the world around him, a dull monotony for a once football loving boy.
He can’t talk, but he constantly reaches out for reassurance in an instinctive gesture with fingers he can barely control. Here the touch of his best friend, Bufane, settles and calms him.
SING supports Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), a South African organisation that provides vital support and education to rural communities. The TB drug regime is complex and requires diligent administration. At a local support group Nozolile gets the help she needs to look after her grandson.
Khanya died on the 8th November 2008. His body just could not win the fight against the deadly combination of AIDS, TB and poverty.
As Nozolile cared for him when he was sick, so she watches over him as he is buried in a gravesite overlooked by the house where he played. He was eight years old. His death was an unnecessary tragedy. SING and TAC are working to ensure his fate is not shared by thousands of others currently at risk.
If Khanya had received the right drugs at the right time, he might still be alive today. But it was impossible for Nozolile to get him what he needed, but she tended and loved Khanya with such tangible strength and devotion. Powerless, she watched this little boy suffer and die. SING and TAC are working to ensure people like her are not alone.
Photographs By Nick Fletcher