Zambia's Women Carry Load of High HIV Rates

Ireen Mpundu, 17, lost her parents to AIDS three years ago. She now works as a tailor and sells tomatoes, vegetables and sweets at a market near her home here in Lusaka, the capital, to support herself and her younger brother.

Mpundu says she was born with the virus that killed both her parents. “My mother was the first to die,” she says tearfully. “She died in 2008 when I was 14 years old. Then, several months later, my dad also became very ill and passed on.” She says she nursed her father, a plumber, during his illness. First she looked after him at home and then at the hospital until he died. After her parents passed away, she says she was too depressed to concentrate on schoolwork. She stopped going to school.

Because none of her relatives opened his or her doors to them, she was left to fend for her and her brother. She spends her meager income from sewing and sales at her market stand to take care of their basic needs. Mpundu is now back in school, so her earnings must also cover books and school fees.

“My brother goes to school during the day while I am sewing and selling,” she says. “Then I go to school in the evening.”

Health practitioners say it’s important for people living with HIV to eat a good, balanced diet. But Mpundu says she can’t always afford proper meals. Some days, she says she feels too sick to attend classes and to take care of her brother.

Our videos