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Toxoplasmosis of the Brain; Candidiasis of the Esophagus; Candidiasis of the Trachea; Candidiasis of the Bronchi; Candidiasis of the Lungs; Kaposi’s Sarcoma; Pneumonia; Tuberculosis; Stab Wound in the Belly; and Bus Accident

MOD2This story appeared in the second volume of Machine of Death stories, titled This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death (2013).

I actually got the idea for this story back when I was writing something else for Volume 1, but decided not to write it at the time because I was already knee-deep in the original story. Originally, I envisioned it as being from the point of view of a foreign aid worker, probably someone working with Médecins Sans Frontières.

The story never got written, at least not for the first Machine of Death book, but when the call for submissions for a second volume went out, I decided to go ahead and write it, and see whether I couldn’t get a workable story out of it. However, by that time, I had realized that the perspective I wanted to explore most was of regular Malawian caught in the crossfire of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the administrative response.

There’s one thing that’s unfair about this story, and that is, it imagines this Malawian HIV/AIDS concentration camp as something new and horrible, and as a Malawian innovation. Sadly, it wouldn’t be in our world, as I discovered while working on revisions of the story. At least two other countries–neither of them in Africa–have run concentration camps for people who are HIV-positive or who have full-blown AIDS:

But Africa being the continent worst struck by this disease, I couldn’t help but wonder if, eventually, the various powers that be might work together to, er, “solve” that problem… and it wouldn’t be the first time a bad first world solution to a problem gets exported to the developing world. 

I am happy to discover there is also an international organization in the USA that operates camps, but aligned in the opposite direction: The Safe Haven Project runs camp programs (all over the world!) designed to empower youths living with HIV/AIDS. So if this story chilled you, you might consider supporting them, whether by spreading the word, volunteering, or by donation.

By the way, this is my second story set in Malawi, for a reason: I was born there, and my father grew up there. My first story set (in part) there was “Dhuluma No More.” (I’m thinking a cheerier story set there might be a good idea, next time.)

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