By Juhie Bhatia
Monday, December 31, 2007
Nicole Itano went to Africa as a young reporter and found she couldn't escape covering AIDS as it gripped the continent. Focusing on the stories of three women, she covers the complexities of the disease and the human side of those who live with it.
(WOMENSENEWS)--When Nicole Itano stepped off the plane in Johannesburg, South Africa, in early 2001, it dawned on her that she didn't know a single person on the continent.
She was 23 and had arrived via a one-way ticket after turning down a full-time newspaper reporter gig in the United States.
By the time Itano left Africa five years later, she had met her husband and reported from 20 African countries. She had also closely covered one of Africa's largest health issues, AIDS.
Itano expands on her AIDS coverage in her new book "No Place Left to Bury the Dead: Denial, Despair and Hope in the African AIDS Pandemic."
Released by Atria Books in the United States on Nov. 20, the book shows how the AIDS epidemic has disproportionately affected women in the southern African countries of Lesotho, South Africa and Botswana. Itano shares the stories of three women and their communities over a period of more than a year and reveals different aspects of this plague.
"Women were the ones bearing the brunt, especially young women, of the epidemic," said Itano, who now lives in Athens, Greece. "This was both in terms of being affected at high rates and also in the communities. It's women who were nursing the sick, taking care of orphans and dealing with the fallout in society from this disease."
In sub-Saharan Africa, 61 percent of people infected with HIV are female and Itano's book coincides with a heightened global attention to the feminization of AIDS in Africa.
When Itano moved to Johannesburg in 2001 she thought she'd only stay for one year.
She had worked as an intern for the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans and had completed a history degree, with a focus on post-colonial Africa, at Yale University.
But one year turned into two, which then turned into five. Though Itano's base remained in Johannesburg, she often traveled to cover everything from the Liberian civil war and the beginning of the Cote d'Ivoire war to the elections in Zimbabwe and the AIDS epidemic.
During this period, Itano produced more than 20 stories with various African datelines on a range of subjects for Women's eNews, and also reported for the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, Elle magazine and other publications.
Though Itano didn't intend to focus on health issues, she said it was impossible to avoid them.
Southern Africa is the subregion most affected by HIV and AIDS, accounting for 35 percent of all people living with HIV worldwide and almost one-third of all new HIV infections and AIDS deaths globally in 2007, according to the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV-AIDS. The HIV prevalence among adults exceeded 15 percent in 2005 in the three countries Itano focused on (Botswa