Grassroots hip-hop artist Vox Sambou recently launched DiscriminaSida, a powerful new track that hit on World AIDS Day, a musical expression in solidarity with the global fight against AIDS and an alarm bell on the growing AIDS crisis across the Caribbean.
In popular consciousness the global AIDS epidemic is often tied to Sub-Saharan Africa, while Africa clearly maintains among the highest AIDS infection rates in the world, the Caribbean region is also deeply impacted by the crisis.
In both the Bahamas and Haiti it is estimated that over 2% of the adult population is currently living with HIV, while beyond general statistics on AIDS in the Caribbean, according to data half of the adults living with the virus today are women.
“In Canada there is less focus on AIDS today, while in southern countries, in Haiti there is major AIDS crisis going on,” outlines Vox Sambou, “also in Haiti AIDS is still often a taboo subject and many religious groups are still telling people not to wear condoms, this must end immediately, we need to act to address the crisis in the open.”
Beyond the virus is economics, as the majority of the population living with AIDS in the Caribbean and Africa are extremely poor and are not able to afford any treatment drugs.
DiscriminaSida presents a striking message woven beautifully into a melody that is both reflective and uplifting to the listener. Beyond projecting the AIDS reality in the Caribbean the track also calls for social solidarity and an end to marginalization or discrimination faced by people struggling with AIDS in Haiti.
“A person who has contracted the AIDS virus, is not a dead person,” raps Vox Sambou in Haitian Creole in DiscriminaSida, “social exclusion doesn’t make sense … if your mind is infected with ignorance you must cleanse it, lower the price of medicine so that everyone can afford it, stop discrimination! we must act! Educate!”
Directed by Dominican filmmaker Ariel Mota the video for DiscriminaSida was filmed on the island of Kiskeya in the Dominican Republik, the video also an important public collaboration between a high profile Haiti hip-hop artist and a Dominican filmmaker a conscious attempt from both artists to bridge existing social and political tensions between the two countries.
In Haiti thousands of children have been orphaned due to the epidemic and it is estimated by the U.N. that over 7000 lives are lost each year to AIDS in Haiti, a leading cause of death in the country. As the social shock of AIDS has subsided in Canada and the U.S. populations in the global south are fighting an intense battle for survival against the virus, while AIDS treatment drugs are often inaccessible due to corporate patent laws maintained by pharmaceutical giants such as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer who continue to secure massive profits over AIDS drugs.
“Medicine for AIDS should be free, the pharmaceutical industry is making so much from the AIDS crisis,” explains Vox Sambou, “in Haiti people are dying in their homes while the pharmacies are full of the exact drugs that they need, this is such an injustice and it must end.”
For more about Vox Sambou, visit VoxSambou.com.
Stefan Christoff is a community organizer and journalist based in Montreal.