Rwanda - © 1998 National Geographic Society
Gilles Peress returned to Rwanda for the first time since photographing the immediate aftermath of the 1994 genocide. He spent time with people enrolled for antiretroviral treatment in the capital, Kigali, as well as in rural areas. Rwanda has made rapid progress in reaching a high proportion of those who need AIDS treatment, yet still faces a serious challenge in the number of children orphaned by war or AIDS.
Olive Ukwizabigira, 20 Olive Ukwizabigira, 20, is one of the orphans of the genocide, left alone at age 6 after her mother was hit by a bullet. At 13, she was raped by her employer. Olive believes she was infected with HIV then, and she became pregnant. At 14, she had her son, Janvier. After starting treatment, Olive met her boyfriend, Eduard. Fearing he would learn she was HIV-positive and leave, Olive ran away. After three weeks without her medicines, Olive had become very ill again. She returned to Eduard, went back to treatment, and is being cared for by Eduard, who is now her husband.
Marcelline Uwimbazi, 31 Marcelline Uwimbazi, 31, the last of six children, married at 18 and had two children, but left her husband because he was a womanizer and an alcoholic. She moved back to her parents' remote farm was cared for by her brother Jean-Marie. Her parents feared they would lose her, like three of their other daughters, who had all died of AIDS. Now, Marcelline feels like a "strong girl" again. Except for taking the medicine every day, she says she "would forget that I have AIDS." Marcelline decided to tell her children about her HIV infection, and they accepted the news well.
Goreti Murikitisoni, 42 & Chantal, 13 In 1996, two years after the war, Goreti Murikitisoni, 42, and her husband, Cyril, both born in Uganda to Rwandan refugees, moved back to Rwanda. Cyril was left a paraplegic when he was shot in 1994 by the Interahamwe, leaving Goreti, the mother of four boys and pregnant with their daughter Chantal, to be the breadwinner. When Goreti was diagnosed HIV-positive in 2001 while hospitalized with tuberculosis, she sank into a depression and her health began to fail. During one of her hospital stays, Chantal, then nine, was raped. Chantal, 13, is the top student in her class and would like to be a doctor.
Eliyeri Rurangawa, 48 Eliyeri Rurangawa, 48, and his wife, Juliette, were on the run during the 1994 war, and their eldest daughter, Clarisse, was born in a refugee camp. He believes the number of HIV-positive people increased after the war because people felt invincible, and many engaged in sexual behavior with little thought of sexually transmitted infections. He believes he was infected when he was unfaithful to Juliette early in their relationship. Now on treatment and able to support his family again as a motorbike taxi driver, Eliyeri has had three of his four children tested, and all were negative.
© Gilles Peress / Magnum Photos
Despite its troubled recent history, Rwanda’s rapid effort to combat AIDS has made free lifelong treatment available to 63,000 people—up from 4,000 people who had started treatment just five years ago. Rwanda stands out as one of the success stories in Africa, and is a model for how health care can reach all communities. Yet AIDS remains a serious health problem in a country rebuilding from war and genocide.
View story: Access to Life / Rwanda
Gilles PeressFrench b. 1946In 1972, Gilles Peress began documenting immigration in Europe. This work continues in his current ongoing project, Hate Thy Brother, a cycle of documentary narratives that looks at intolerance and it's consequences.
His books include Haines; A Village Destroyed; The Graves: Srebrenica and Vukovar; The Silence: Rwanda; Farewell to Bosnia and Telex Iran.
His work has been exhibited and is collected by the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, PS1, all in New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Getty Museum in Los Angeles; the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the V&A in London; the Musée d'Art Moderne, the Picasso Museum, Parc de la Villette and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; the Museum Folkwang, Essen; the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, among others.
Awards and fellowships Peress has received include: The Guggenheim Fellowship , National Endowment for the Arts grants, Pollock-Krasner and New York State Council of the Arts fellowships, the W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography and the International Center of Photography Infinity Award.
Portfolios of his work have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Sunday Times Magazine, Du magazine, Life, Stern, Geo, Paris-Match, Parkett, Aperture and the New Yorker.
Peress is Professor of Human Rights and Photography at Bard College, NY and Senior Research Fellow at the Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley. Peress joined Magnum Photos in 1971 and served three times as vice-president and twice as president of the co-operative. He and his wife, Alison Cornyn, live in Brooklyn with their three children.