A couple of weeks ago I posted a quick entry about HIV and how it is spread, and not. If you haven’t read it please do! Today is World AIDS Day, and honestly, I don’t even know what to say. Obviously this day is significant for our family and friends. But what do you say? Where do you start? Find a cure? End the stigma? End the UNNECESSARY death and suffering of many by making ARVs accessible around the world? Love someone with HIV? Love a child with HIV? Fund research? Give a freaking hoot that over 33 MILLION people in the world are living with HIV/AIDS, and that more than 25 MILLION (sons, daughters, wives, husbands, friends) have died as a result?! How about the fact that about 97% of people living with HIV/AIDS live in low and middle-income countries (many in sub-Saharan Africa) and don’t have access to life saving medications that I can walk down the street and get? Where do I start? If I sound annoyed, it’s because I am. I hate HIV. I hate you HIV. I hate what you do to families around the world. I hate that you leave children as orphans. I hate that you leave spouses as widows/widowers. I hate that in 2012 alone you killed 600 children a day. I hate that you destroy communities, economies, and lives. I hate that you have caused such a culture of fear that you have created an untouchable population. I hate the way you have silenced us as a people, and allowed us to be mislead and ill-informed. And mostly, I hate that we have remained silent for so long. Just letting it happen. Letting people die. Letting lies be spread. Sweeping it under the rug because it touches a “people” or country we don’t “associate” with. Not fighting for what is right. Not even knowing that we aren’t fighting really…
And it’s just not ok. And if I get fired up, then God give me graceful words to show that there is hope, and much to be thankful for. But Lord please don’t ever let me stop being a voice.
And I kind of want you to be a voice too.
I talked some about medical advancements in my last post. I feel it’s important to run through that all again. Because chances are good that if it’s not something you deal with on a daily basis then you just don’t know. How/why would you? We didn’t. And no one really talks about it anymore. But the meds are amazing. In the US HIV is no longer considered a terminal illness, but a manageable condition. Manageable. Meds twice (or once for some teens and adults) a day. Manageable. Doctor visits every few months. And you may have your pharmacy on speed dial. Manageable. The meds are so powerful that they can suppress the level of HIV in someone’s blood down to a point called “undetectable”. Meaning that that person’s viral load (amount of HIV in the blood) doesn’t register on a standard HIV test. You know what else it means? It means their risk of transmission is less than 0.01%. Not even kidding. HIV+ people can get married, have HIV- kids, live a long healthy life…and you know, do all those things I mentioned in the last post, like share a drink with you, hold your hand, and give you what we know around here as a big “bone crusher hug”. Remember, HIV spreads in 3 main ways: unprotected sex, needles, and mother-to-child.
Can we just talk about how thankful we are for these medical advancements for a minute? We are. All you smart people out there that have dedicated your lives to research, and all you brave people out there that have fought for access to meds, we love you. And all you people out there caring for and supporting HIV+ people and programs, we love you too. Big time.
Now, you may be thinking “then wait, if all of that is true, then why is HIV such a destructive force around the world?” and now you’ve just asked THE question. It doesn’t have to be. And this is where I get fired up, and then God has to (hopefully) give me the words. Because just as we need to be a voice against stigma, we need to be a voice for a cure and for access to ARVs. I feel like stigma is an easier battle. You get loud, you tell people the truth, people go “Whoa, I had no idea!”, We say “I know right!? Us either!” and stigma begins fading person by person. Access to meds is trickier. You’re talking governments, and pharmaceutical companies, and advocate groups, and big major organizations and on and on…and then the people, and adherence, and finances, and on and on. But it has to happen. An AIDS free generation is within our reach. I used to hear this and wonder what they heck they were talking about. How were they planning on making that happen. This is how. Access to meds is how. Prevention is how. Until there is a cure. When people are educated on how HIV is transmitted…when people have low viral loads…when mothers have access to ARVs and children are born HIV-…when children that are born with HIV have access to meds and don’t develop AIDS…then we have an AIDS free generation. It’s a big task. But wiping our hands of it isn’t an answer. 600 children A DAY. A DAY. We were in an orphanage of a little less than 90 HIV+ children in Ethiopia. That’s like watching each of those kids die seven times. I love those children. One of those children calls me mommy. If that doesn’t get you fired up at all…well…I don’t know…come talk to me.
Whew. It’s World AIDS Day. And this year I’m fired up about it. Get fired up with me. Tell someone the truth about HIV/AIDS. Pray for a cure. Pray for the people around the world suffering unimaginably. Pray for the spouses and children and families that have lost someone to AIDS. Pray for the millions of AIDS orphans around the world. Pray for affected communities. Pray for the medical staff around the world (often overworked and underpaid) caring for AIDS patients globally. Pray for the researchers. And pray about what your role in it all is.
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