In 2013 I moved to Ndola, a city in northern Zambia, to work on an HIV research project. Ndola is the hub of the country’s copper mining industry, a bustling commercial center that draws entrepreneurs from South Africa and beyond. My organization worked with government clinics in villages around the Ndola area to provide HIV and family-planning counseling, care, and education. I’d recently graduated from a master’s program in public health, and a US-based research organization had hired me to co-lead a year-long study of HIV infection among women.

During the week, my office prepared truckloads of supplies—test kits, condoms, appointment logbooks—and shipped them to the clinics. Once every week, our doctors also treated patients at our headquarters in the city. Ndola, Zambia’s third-largest city, had a great need for affordable, high-quality health care. If at times the cityscape seemed picturesque to me—jacaranda-lined dirt roads, merchants bearing enormous bowls of vegetables upon their heads, uniformed schoolchildren gleefully walking back home at the end of day—there were always reminders of Zambia’s extreme, endemic poverty. For many of the children I saw, home was the sprawling encampments on the city’s outskirts—a maze of rudimentary, one-room structures that housed entire families.