AIDS: show support and dedication


by Vista Kalipa

Decades ago, the popular notion about AIDS was that it was aplague aimed at wiping out homosexuals from the rest ofsociety.

With this notion in mind, society was not only denied possibleprevention methods, but suffered tremendously because of its denialand ignorance.

Like most unwanted connotations, no social class, group,organization, race or ethnicity wanted to be associated with thestigma that AIDS had.

Instead of dealing with the problem, people passed the blamearound.

In the early years of its development, AIDS continued to claimmany lives.

People soon started to realize that AIDS was not limited topeople of certain culture, sexuality or ethnicity.

It did, and still does, affect everyone.

During my recent visit to South Africa, I was confronted with arude awakening when I learned that Christopher, a high schoolfriend of mine, was living with AIDS.

This was to be my first personal connection with AIDS.

After informing me of such news, my mother sat me down and gaveme a lecture on the importance of protection when engaging in anysexual activity.

After the lecture, I asked her to escort me to Chri’s home.

As soon as I laid my eyes upon him, my heart sank. Tears startedto gather around my eyes, but I fought them back because I knewthat I had to stay strong for him and not let him see how hiscondition was affecting others.

There he was, sitting on a couch, wrapped in layers of blanketsand a heater was placed by his legs. His condition was poorer thanI’d ever seen and made it almost impossible to not cry.

After pulling myself together, I walked over to him and extendedmy arm to shake his hand.He smiled and held on to my hand tightlyand longer than a regular handshake. I could see that he was reallyhappy to see me.

With attempts to avoid the feeble nature of his condition, Iinitiated a conversation with him, which – of course – began with,”How are you?”

Again, Chris just smiled and looked at me.

By then, I had already realized my mistake and so I desperatelypopped another question to shift the focus from my patheticattempts to make him comfortable.

Still, my friend didn’t utter a word.

His mother, who was conversing with my mother, appeared from thekitchen and informed me that Chris had lost his speakingabilities.

At that moment, I suddenly felt the weight of my heart in mystomach.

I again tried to regain composure but everything seemed so hardto deal with and I knew that I could no longer fight the tears.

After the first tear-drop, I announced my departure and gaveChris a hug.

On my way home, I was suddenly reminded of the reckless lifeChris had chosen for himself. His charm, humor and wit were whatgot him in trouble.

He loved women and they often fell for most of his qualities.Chris was one of those guys who juggled more than one relationshipand got away with it, but his behavior finally caught up withhim.

When I got home, my mother informed me of a few more people inthe neighborhood who were also living with AIDS. I was amazed bythese numbers as she was calling out the names to me.

We hear about AIDS almost everyday. We hear about Africa ratinghigh in HIV/AIDS infections, yet it still seems so distant when westill cannot make a personal connection to it.

The numbers of new HIV infections are on a constant rise. In2002 alone, about five million of the world’s population wasinfected with HIV. About 42 million people in the world are livingwith AIDS and about three million people were lost to AIDS lastyear.

These are not just numbers. These serve as an indication and areminder that we need to raise more awareness about this issue. Weneed to protect ourselves and those around us from this dreadfulvirus.

Show support for those living with this virus by wearing a redribbon, by raising more awareness and prevention measures in yourown communities.

*The Red Ribbon

This is an international symbol for AIDS awareness that is wornto demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS, and to remindothers of the need for their support and commitment.

*World AIDS Day

Dec. 1 is officially designated as the World AIDS day. It is aday to bring messages of understanding and awareness about AIDS toevery country in the world. It is a day to remember those lost tothis virus. Protect yourself and others from unwantedconditions.

AIDS kills!