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Almost every narrator mentions how they have been affected by HIV and AIDS – some by the condition itself, all by its impact on their family or community.

Several comment on how poverty makes girls and women vulnerable to men who give them small gifts or money for sex. Ruth and Benson are among those who point out that rates of sex work have gone up because jobs are so scarce for women.

Poverty also exacerbates the impact of HIV and AIDS: food insecurity weakens the beneficial effects of medicine, while caring for the sick and those orphaned or widowed by AIDS stretches families’ resources to their limits.

Benson, like most narrators, is well aware of the way HIV and AIDS are driven by poverty, yet cause it; he highlights how it robs communities of their productive men and women.

Mirriam also points out how in her village “…all the young people, those in their productive years, have died – leaving the old people and their children behind”.

Warren is involved in education programmes and his account covers many different aspects of the epidemic.

Grace takes a particularly open approach to her status, believing a positive attitude has many benefits.


HIV and AIDS is a key theme of the Living with poverty: Zambia oral testimony project.


Anna: strong and hardworking

Benson: people need jobs

Dominic: valuing tradition

Edward: anxiety of poverty

Gilbert: cattle is wealth

Grandwell: sustained support

Mirriam: dedicated to others

Ruth: a mother’s struggle

Sara: coping without family

Utrina: working the land

Warren: the HIV burden

Grace: an open approach

Key themes

Introduction to the project


Food security


Water and drought


Survival strategies

Self-help and community support


Loans and debt

Political representation

The cycle of poverty