To honor World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, PopPhoto.com would like to recognize some of
the individuals and institutions working to fight the global AIDS crisis
Steve Simon first went to Africa in 1992, when he was asked to travel to Zambia along with several photographers documenting the work of CARE, a medical NGO, along with a Toronto-based collective of photographers called Photosensitive. Though the trip only lasted a week, he says, "The people and the place really struck a chord with me and I knew I wanted to come back." Three years later, he was traveling through Ethiopia and Mozambique, shooting independently, before going to Lesotho, a small landlocked country within the borders of South Africa, to shoot stills of a documentary titled Tšepong: A Clinic Called Hope, on a group of Canadian medical workers treating AIDS victims.
A publisher at Charta Books saw Simon's images and suggested that he produce a book on the subject. And so, not long afterwards, Simon returned to Lesotho for a full five weeks, working with various NGOs and visiting with patients and their families to fill in the cracks of what was soon to be Heroines & Heroes -- a work that is dedicated not only to showing the reality and magnitude of AIDS in Africa, but also the grace, strength, and determination of those who are living with and fighting the disease.
"The word pheello is a Sesotho word meaning 'perseverance,'" Simon writes in the introduction. "Persevere is what the heroines and heroes in the fight against AIDS do." The book is organized in a way that shows the cycle of the battle, beginning with the reality of living with the disease, the reality of death, and, last, the next generation -- potentially the one that, with the right kind of global support, could potentially defeat it.
As Simon points out, helping to get this kind of global support going can be as small as holding the government accountable for putting the right funds and programs in place where they're needed. Which is why Heroines & Heroes closes with a section titled Call To Action: How You Can Help, listing humanitarian and educational organizations and programs nationwide.
Steve Simon will be giving a special presentation of the book on Dec. 1 (World AIDS Day) in New York City (Barnes & Nobles, Chelsea, 675 6th Avenue; 7 p.m.).