Stephen Lewis featured in CBC documentary


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and McMaster’s Social Sciences Scholar-in-Residence, will be featured on The Nature of Things on Wednesday, Dec. 6. Photo by Nick Wiebe.”]The Nature of Things will air a one-hour documentary film by Judy Jackson called The Man Who Couldn't Sleep on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. The film follows Stephen Lewis to South Africa and Lesotho on one of his last missions as UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. Lewis is also McMaster's Social Sciences Scholar-in-Residence.

“I have spent five years traveling through Africa,” said Lewis. “Nothing has so engaged every fibre of my being as this struggle against the pandemic.”

On Dec. 31, Stephen Lewis's tenure as UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa comes to an end. For five and a half years, he's criss-crossed Africa and the world at breakneck speed. His crammed schedule has included endless speeches and high level meetings with presidents, UN officials and anyone who will listen to his impassioned plea for Africa.

Possessing an intricate knowledge of the continent, he's made countless visits to grassroots projects. They give him great hope but also disturb him most deeply because the spectre of death is still everywhere. Each death haunts him. He rarely sleeps on these epic journeys — in fact it's not clear when he gets any rest at all.

The Nature of Things has already made two award-winning documentaries following Stephen Lewis's work in Africa (Race Against Time, 2001 and The Value of Life, 2003).

Now we set out again with an indefatigable Stephen Lewis on one of his last missions, to assess the global response and continue his own emotional-roller coaster journey.

With him we visit South Africa and Lesotho. We see his delight and pain at witnessing the strength and carnage at the grassroots level. In Lesotho, one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic, there is new optimism. Lazarus-like, the sick are rising from their deathbeds, thanks to a rollout of antiretroviral drugs.

It was his despair at watching people die wretchedly, often without even a bar of soap, which led him to create The Stephen Lewis Foundation.

There has been an overwhelming response to the foundation from the people of Canada. From coast to coast they've raised money in countless ways. It comes mostly in small amounts and from people who don't have much — $250 from a bake sale here, $300 from a dinner or a dance there. And it keeps coming — a balm for a sleepless man.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation supports forgotten, marginalized groups like Africa's grandmothers. Africa now has an estimated 13 million AIDS orphans, and in some countries up to 60 per cent are somehow looked after by grandmothers.

The documentary presents footage from the Stephen Lewis Foundation's first international Grandmothers' Gathering, where 100 African grandmothers from 11 countries met in Toronto with 200 Canadian grandmothers. The gathering provided a forum for African grandmothers to set the agenda for support and to establish networks and plan ways of moving forward to help.

This November, as a result of months of successful lobbying by international women's groups and by Lewis and his team, the High Level Panel on UN Reform recommended the creation of the UN's first major agency for women.