I was at a party recently, talking about adoption, and orphan care, and the healing that comes from being in a family, and special needs, and waiting children…the party was an adoption fundraiser, so don’t judge. But seriously, I will talk your ear off about these things if you give me the chance. Fair warning. Anyways, one of the guests told me a story about a woman who dropped, and then refused to touch, a necklace made by an HIV+ woman. Reread that if it was so shocking to you that you didn’t catch it the first time. She was holding a necklace. Someone said it was made by an artisan with HIV. And she dropped the necklace. Refusing to touch it again.
Because she didn’t want to get HIV/AIDS.
The really shocking thing is this is not the first time I’ve heard a story like this. I just…if you are reading this please please please know that you can NOT contract HIV by touching jewelry made by HIV+ people. In fact there are about a bazillion ways you can not get HIV from someone. But I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
Of course, this shifted the conversation to HIV/AIDS. Again, I will talk your ear off. Joyfully. So let’s talk. Call me, message me, I’m not afraid to talk about this stuff. But before I started talking one of the ladies turned to me and asked if I ever get sick of having to explain the truth about HIV/AIDS to people. No way. In fact, I love it. Do I love that HIV/AIDS exists? Um, no. If God provided a cure tomorrow I may never stop crying tears of joy. BUT, until that day comes God has called us to talk about it. To spread truth about what HIV/AIDS is. What it looks like on a daily basis. What it means for families and children all over the world. To fight the stigma that people with HIV/AIDS face. We end the stigma by ending the fear. We end the fear by spreading the truth. We tell the truth by being bold, and unafraid, even though we know it won’t always be easy. And may even get ugly. The truth is worth it. We can not let misinformation like THAT exist…or heaven forbid spread. It needs to END. Like right now.
So with World AIDS Day just a couple of weeks away I figure now is as good a time as any to do some talking. And a disclaimer, Nate and I, we WERE that ill-informed. So this is in no way a “hey, we’re so smart and you’r so not” post. You might not believe some of the things Nate and I thought we “knew” about HIV/AIDS just a short 24 months ago. Yes, it saddens me. But whoa does it make me grateful for a God that opens eyes and changes hearts. And to all you people that He placed in our lives to show us the truth, thank you.
There are some great resources on Project Hopeful’s website, and I encourage everyone to check out the information they provide. But here are a few things I think are super important to know.
Let’s start with a few ways that HIV is NOT spread. Hugging. Swimming. Sharing a towel. Drinking out of the same drink. Holding hands. Sneezing. Coughing. Boogers. Poop. Pee. Spit. Sweat. And any other fun body function kids or adults do like that. High fives (I know you were worried). Kisses. Playing on the playground. Sharing school supplies. Sharing a cubical. Mosquitos. And most certainly not through jewelry made by someone with HIV.
Now, let’s talk about how it is spread. Sex. Birth. Breastfeeding. And blood to blood transmission…so things like needles and transfusions. That’s it.
In addition, there are factors that play into how easily it is passed from one person to another. Factors like viral load, the amount of HIV in someone’s blood. A high viral load means more viruses, and therefore a greater risk of transmission. A low viral load means fewer viruses, and a lower risk. Medical advancements over the last 30 years will blow your mind. If a person has a low enough viral load that tests are unable to measure it their viral load is what is called undetectable. This doesn’t mean the person no longer has HIV, just that the meds are working and their risk of transmission is looooooooooow. Like low to the point where undetectable + women can have biological children with less than a 1% chance of transmitting it to their child. That’s amazing right!? It is. Think about what that would mean globally if everyone had access to meds. Yeah. Also think about this, if a woman can give birth to a child, like pass an entire human OUT OF HER BODY, and the rate is that low then how afraid do you think you need to be about a little scraped knee?
The key is access to ARVs. And not everyone has that. People are dying every single day because they don’t have access to these life saving medicines. But as long as we allow stigma and fear to rule what we talk about, and how we act, people will continue to die. Children will continue to be infected. Spouses will watch each other die. Families will be torn apart. Communities will fall. HIV is no joke. You do not need to fear people with HIV/AIDS. But that is not to say that HIV/AIDS is not a very powerful, serious disease that needs to be managed. It doesn’t need the help of stigma to make it even worse. It has done just fine wreaking havoc globally all on it’s own. We can not allow ourselves to be part of it’s strength. We can not allow misinformation to lead to fear and silence. We have to be a voice for global education, treatment, and prevention. And a cure. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to try to post another time or two to make sense of some of the other myths I’ve been hearing recently. But definitely check out Project Hopeful’s site in the meantime. And if you want to chat, you know I’m up for it.