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« AIDS slang speaks volumes | Main | Thoughts on the International AIDS Conference in Mexico »
Wednesday
Aug272008

A Taxi Ride in Lusaka

I don’t know about you, but I love talking to taxi drivers. More often than not they have an opinion and are willing to share it. They are a wealth of local knowledge, invaluable to a constantly inquisitive traveler like me. 

On one trip in Lusaka I was chatting to Chris, a local taxi driver. He was taking me from my hotel to the Swedish Embassy a short drive away. After the usual discussion about the fare, conversation turned rapidly to football. He gave the usual nonstop hysterical laughing fit at the suggestion QPR were obviously the greatest football team in the world and we soon settled down to further discussion about family and work. 

Once he knew I worked with HIV, he told me of family members who had passed away and the devastation the disease was causing. Now I know this will seem rude, but I always make a point of asking whether the taxi driver has had an HIV test or not and in Chris’s case it was no different. His answer was the same one every taxi driver I have ever spoken to in Africa has given. 

NO. 

The reasoning is this: “Since you cannot provide treatment for me, there is no point in me taking the test since I am going to die in a few years anyway. If I take the test and I am positive, I will lose my job, my friends and
possibly my family, and I will die a lonely poor man in a few years. However, if I don’t take the test, then I will not know, I will keep my job, my friends and my family, and will still die in a few years but not as lonely and not as poor.” Of course I always ask the question: “Aren’t you scared of spreading the disease?” Chris’s response was
typical – a shrug of the shoulders and a change of conversation back to football.

 

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