Rape and HIV/AIDS in Rwanda

In the mid 1980s, the US committee for UNICEF sent its first fundraising letter requesting donations for African women and children with AIDS. Alongside the appeal we reprinted the only photograph then to be found in the organisation's files under “AIDS in Africa”, an image of an emaciated young Rwandan mother and her infant daughter: people from a little-known country, dying from a little-understood infection. At that not-so-long-ago point, none of the epidemiologists tracking the spread of HIV had yet predicted that the virus would soon explode into history's most deadly global pandemic. No-one had speculated that a lethal sexually transmitted infection would find easy inroads among the subordinated young women of sub-Saharan Africa. Analysts of central Africa's long civil conflicts had not yet begun to imagine that a genocide would eventually hurl Rwanda out of obscurity. Even the most apocalyptic forecasters of doom could not have anticipated that HIV/AIDS and ethnic hatred in that tiny country were travelling on a collision course, headed for 100 ghastly days of genocidal carnage and rape in 1994.