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Call Upon

Yvette Varice, a twenty-year-old senior-six language student recently read this poem, "Call upon," on Rwanda Television. The poem was, with Yvette's permission, translated from Kinyarwanda to English for the purpose of posting on this web site.

I have come, I have totally come to call upon you and to find out what we can do for our people who are perishing day by day.

I have tried many ways. All of them have become bushes, those who used to clear them are now in bed and I don't know what to do. That's why I am calling upon all of you for help.

I have come sadly. Sadness is breaking my heart. I can't feel comfortable, not even for a single moment. I can't sleep at all. I am always crying for our people dying of AIDS.

This virus, this killer, one which is invisible, which does not fear anyone, when it gets you, you have to die, leaving your family in great poverty, a family which was once full of joy, is left in total sadness.

Those handsome young boys and beautiful young girls, those parents who used to look after their children, they die leaving orphans, caring for themselves becomes a big problem.

This virus doesn't fear great people, it doesn't fear knocking at the doors of such people, and when it enters it fits comfortably and it starts killing one by one.

Since the problem is for you and I, let's all stand up and fight this virus, this disease that has no cure. When it gets you, you automatically know it will never leave you alive. When you start falling sick you know you have to die, you start losing hope and gaining grief day by day, counting your days one by one and those who were once your friends disappear, one by one.

The real truth about this disease is that when you are tempted to commit adultery, it welcomes you with vigor. Very soon you are counted in the numbers of those who are infected. Where there was once flesh there is only bones. Where there used to be a body protruding bones are all that remain.

This is the disease for which I call for help, I call upon you wherever you are to come and help me, come and fight this disease which has claimed lives of our people and I call upon those who are already infected. I call upon your help, to encourage you not to infect others as this will also help you to live another day.

Let me call upon the whole community to help those who are sick and yet have no one to care for them. They need your help, at least for you to come and talk to them in their hospital beds.

Let me call upon you the youth, the future generation. I would like you to understand that you are the strength of tomorrow. So stand up and fight this disease. You also in authority, I call upon you to make sure that the people your are leading are disease free.

Let me call upon you parents to fight against this disease which is keeping an eye on your children. Make sure you don't struggle in vain. Please take measures. Tell your children about this disease, and the effects of it.

You seem to feel shy telling your children about this disease, but one day you will only find them in bed, unable to turn themselves, when they will be left with only a head or when you are escorting them to the grave. Don't you think this will bring you more sadness? Some people will be sharing the sadness, but there will be others who will mock you. Please, try to fight this disease when there is still time.

This disease I keep talking about is AIDS. The disease which can't allow me to keep quiet, which can't allow me to be calm, the disease which does not fear anyone. When you make a slight mistake it gets you, it troubles you. You feel uncomfortable, you begin to develop rashes, and you cough every now and then, all disease come to you, one after the other, day by day. You start going for treatment that is soon stopped by poverty.

I am calling you to come and fight this disease but you seem to be reluctant in coming or you are coming hesitantly. Yet the many who are dying are your own people. Stand up, let's go deep down in the village. I understand it has already gone there ahead of us. It is already seated there comfortably. In towns it is a different case. The number of those who are sick from this disease is even greater compared to in the villages. Fighting this disease means doing away with adultery.

I call upon you the youth that are still in schools, I encourage you to keep away from this disease. Please, don't compete to get infected.

Let's make a decision now, the old, the young, wherever you are, come-one-come-all and fight against this disease. I am calling you to try and keep away from this disease. You have to control yourselves. Please have self control. Be strong because this call is for every one to fight this disease until it will be forgotten forever. With this I have hope that you and I have decided to fight this disease which is a threat to all our lives.

This is a call I have to make.

Note: The AIDS epidemic in Rwanda has been shaped by the violent political events of the country. Before the 1994 genocide, HIV/AIDS in Rwanda was similar to that of other African countries. Rwanda experienced high rates in urban settings, more than 10% in pregnant women and much lower in rural areas, where the majority of the Rwandan population lives. However, a survey in 1997 revealed that there were now few differences between urban and rural rates - both were found to be around 11%. That the rate is higher today is recognized, as Rwanda's HIV epidemic is now believed to be one of the worst in East Africa.