“My images exist as a record of people I met who lost their lives to AIDS, as a reminder that countless others seek access to life-saving drugs.”

Kristen Ashburn was awarded a Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography in 2006 for her project on HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. Her work eventually led to the documentary ‘Bloodline.’ Here, Ashburn recalls her motivation for the project:

“I first began documenting the effects of HIV/AIDS in the southern region of Africa in December 2000. I was drawn to the issue after reading Mark Schoof’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the topic in the Village Voice.

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Mark wrote on November 2nd 1999: “Only 17 years have passed since AIDS was first found in Africa on the shores of Lake Victoria yet according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, the virus has already killed more than 11 million sub-Saharan Africans. More than 22 million others are infected.”

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These statistics were staggering. Although antiretroviral drugs were available in the States and throughout Europe they were nonexistent in Africa at that time. The cost of medicine and the surrounding treatment were price prohibitive in countries where the majority of people live off $2 a day. Because of this, millions of people would die.

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Today, nine years after Mark’s article was published, an additional 14 million plus people have died, another 22 million people are living with the virus and 12 million children have been orphaned by the pandemic. What was clear then, and what is clear now, is that lives are at stake.

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While documenting this crisis I chose to focus on the stories of individuals. The scope of the pandemic was too widespread. My images exist as a record of people I met who lost their lives to AIDS, as a reminder that countless others seek access to life-saving drugs and that children orphaned by the disease need our help.

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These images were taken in Malawi through the support of the Getty Images Grant. Thank you.”

Find out more about the Getty Images Grants for Editorial Photography