I remember the big push in the late 80's to get tested and the scary adds of people with HIV/AIDS but that was really all I knew. Until 1996 when I fell in love with the musical RENT. This musical was fictitious but it represented many people who really were fighting for their lives. I had every note memorized and can still sing many of the lyrics to this beautiful piece.
Flash forward to 2011 when I read the book "there is no me without you". This book walked through the HIV/AIDS epidemic and then focused in on the devastation this virus left in Ethiopia and other developing countries.
This is one of the reasons Gene and I partner with AHOPE. http://www.ahopeforchildren.org. In the beginning HIV was a death sentence, families were ripped apart and children were left with out families. But then modern medicine caught up and now it is considered a "manageable disease" similar to diabetes. Many children that were once orphaned from HIV/AIDS are living healthy lives and their families are learning how to care for them. These children that were once thought to only live a short time have the same life expectancy as any one else!
All because there are these amazing things called ARV's that help the body keep the virus in a hibernation like state. Their immune systems stay strong and keep the virus locked up. As long as medication is managed and regular medical care is checked the positive person is considered "undetectable".
So with all these amazing changes, you know the one thing that hasn't changed?
Discrimination is still rampant. Lack of knowledge is still there. You can not get HIV from kissing, or sharing cups or toilet seats. The virus is fragile and it can only live outside the body for a very short time.
There are three ways you can contract the virus.
1. Birth/Breast feeding (positive mother to child)
3. IV drug use/blood transfusion
News flash- your not going to contract it unless you are:
1.THE baby just born or THE breast feeding baby (I'm gonna guess your not)
2. You are having unprotected sex without you and your partner getting tested
(now that is just stupid and you will most likely end up with nasty som'in down
there and the added walk of shame in the am)
3. You are sharing random IV drug needles with random people injecting
yourself with illegal drugs (in which case you also need rehab) or have had a
botched blood transfusion (which is why there is all that blood testing when you
So what's the deal....why does it still exist? Because people are scared of getting tested. In other countries, because medical treatment is not readily available and the stigma is so great. Like the women we partner with at Noonday, once their status is known they are kicked out of their homes and ostracized. All because of stigma and access. Some individuals can access medication but most people in developing countries people don't know that HIV is treatable, they don't know how to access it, and they don't know how it helps.
It is not okay with me that a person dies of a treatable disease simply because of lack of knowledge and a stigma.
Let's break down this barrier together!
Want to learn more:
Worlds Aids Day: http://www.worldaidsday.org
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor-simply sharing what I have learned from educated resources :)