That's the purpose of a traveling exhibit featuring a 2,340-square-foot replica of an African village. Tour the village while listening on headsets to a personal audio track telling the true stories of four children -- Kombo, Babirye, Emmanuel and Mathabo -- whose lives have been affected by AIDS.
The exhibit was inspired by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum In Washington, D.C. There, visitors can see the displays while reading the personal story of an individual Holocaust victim.
The AIDS exhibit, sponsored by World Vision, makes a stop in Los Angeles from now until Aug. 26 at two locations. Until Aug. 18, you can "Step Into Africa" at the Holman United Methodist Church, 3320 W. Adams Blvd. in Los Angeles. And Aug. 22-26 you can experience it at Calvary Community Church, 5495 Via Rocas, Westlake Village.
The exhibit will travel to 80 cities, and some 200,000 people are expected to see it.
Be prepared to spend some time. As the voice says through the headset: "The pace is relaxed. Much like life in Africa."
And while the exhibit is moving, it is not hopeless. As you can see and hear, there is music, joy and hope in the people of Africa, where 25 million people are infected with the AIDS virus.
Short of getting on an airplane to see the continent for yourself, the exhibit gives you a sense of what it is like to be in a village "alive with activity, but people say it has the smell of death," as the gentle African voice will tell you.
-- Susan Brink
Photos: Robert Coronado, World Vision. Top: Faces of those affected by HIV and AIDS in a church in Babirye's village. *Earlier version said the scene was at the exhibit. Below: Bed in a one-room hut.