Our friend Benson led us through the entrance of his family's traditional thatch and mud two-room hut where his brother lay dead on the floor. His cachectic body was simply dressed in plain clothes with a bandana tied around his mouth. There was no fancy coffin, no funeral home, no bouquets of flowers, no music, just a silence broken only by the heart-wrenching traditional wailing of his sister knelt at his side.
He was the third of Benson's brothers to die before their mid-30s. As with the other brothers, his body was consumed by tuberculosis, likely spread through cramped one-room living conditions and complicated by HIV. He was receiving anti-TB treatment, but was unable to reach the nearest medical center when complications arose, due to financial reasons. Instead of receiving available and effective treatment, he died silently in his home one night.
His case is not unique. Upon leaving the funeral we crossed paths with a local nurse who was on her way to the same funeral. When we asked where she was coming from, she told us she was coming from another funeral of a young man who died of HIV in the neighboring village. Throughout these islands, one could march from funeral to funeral of young people silently passing from the epidemic of HIV and TB destroying this area.
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