Condom Nation

Life in Swaziland in the era of HIV


The Kingdom of Swaziland is unique in many ways. It is the last remaining absolute monarchy in Africa and has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world: more than one adult in every four is infected with the virus.


Family structures are complex, and that makes life in the homestead complicated. A single compound can be home to large numbers of children that are related to one another through one parent but not both; absent parents are a norm. Men have far more power than women, and the culture provides no space to people who are anything but heterosexual. Formal polygamy, once the norm, is now on the decline. But 45 year-old King Mswati III has fourteen wives and is soon to marry a 15th. It is widely accepted that men will have several girlfriends at the same time as an officially sanctioned wife.


Though HIV continues to spread, over 80% of the people who need medication to control their infection are getting it. That’s an extraordinary achievement in a country of 1.2 million people where 40% of adults are unemployed, where foreign investment is very limited and where personal freedoms are limited by a government appointed by the King.


Swaziland is so much more than the HIV epidemic it has been facing for the last three decades. Its landscapes are stunning, and its families and communities extraordinarily resilient. Condom Nation is the story of a nation managing and learning against the odds. The stories of family life portray the people behind the challenging but changing HIV epidemic. Antiretroviral drugs have given Swaziland a pause, a chance to move beyond AIDS and death, an opportunity to conquer the virus and work out how the nation - the kingdom - can thrive.


Here is a small selection of images from the book.

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