Students may have seen sophomore Nathan Davison walking around campus in a bright shirt carrying a tin full of change and wondered what he was doing.
He has been raising money for the past several weeks to help the HIV/AIDS situation in Swaziland. He is trying to raise at least $1,000.
He is almost halfway to that goal and is taking a rather unusual approach. Instead of asking a few people to donate a lot of money, he is asking lots of people to sign his shirt, “costing” them a dollar each.
“I am having everyone that donates sign my shirt,” he said. “So far, I have over 400 signatures.”Swaziland has one of the worst HIV/AIDS problems in the world.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Swaziland – a country in Southern Africa – has a 38.8 percent HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. This is the highest prevalence rate in the world and is astronomically higher than America’s 0.6 percent. USAID, a branch of the federal government that offers help to foreign nations, lists on its Web site that by the end of 2003, more than 200,000 people in Swaziland were living with the disease. This year, the life expectancy decreased to 39.4 years from 51 years in the mid-1990s.
The people of Swaziland have many misconceptions about possible treatments for HIV/AIDS that actually help the spread of the diseases. Many believe that if an infected man has sex with a virgin, he will be cured. This often leads men to sleep with their own children. Sometimes these children are as young as 6 years of age.
The disease is also spread in other ways, such as through needles that have not been sterilized. Some medical facilities in Swaziland use and reuse their needles from patient to patient.
Davison believes that the Swazi people are confused as to why their people contract HIV/AIDS in addition to what can be done to prevent it.
He is working with DoMissions, a not-for-profit organization that sends missionaries to various parts of the world. He saw their exhibit on the HIV/AIDS situation in Swaziland while attending a church retreat this past summer.
“The situation fell heavy on my heart, and I felt called to do what I can to be a part of the solution,” he said.
DoMissions has challenged Davison to raise $1,000 by December, but his personal goal is $1,500. He said that if he raises $3,000, he will be able to travel to Southern Africa with other missionaries to help educate the Swazi people himself. He would be there from Dec. 26, 2005, to Jan. 6, 2006.
“Even if I can’t reach that goal, I think that it is a great cause and I want to do whatever I can to help out.”
Davison chose to wear the colorful T-shirt to draw attention to the cause. He has spoken with and requested the support of various organizations and classes on campus and said their responses have been very positive.
Davison has put together several resources to educate students on his effort, including his Web site, Swaziland.notlong.com, which provides information on his project. His Facebook group, “Help support AIDS Awareness in Swaziland,” gives a brief summary of his efforts. It also lists specific ways to donate, including through PayPal. Students can also make a donation at the Student Government office or simply look for him on campus, wearing his shirt and talking with students.
“I pray that the missionaries and myself are able to impact the lives of the Swazi people,” Davison said. “The relief workers who have gone to aid those fallen victim to hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis are only needed after the disaster has occurred. In south Africa, we have a unique opportunity to help the natives before disaster strikes. More than anything else, I would like to see the people of Swaziland be responsive to the message we are sending.”