World Aids Day –We are all affected.

I wanted to write something for December 1st, World Aids Day, but as I sat down to do it, I realized that this was not my story to tell. Instead my mum has agreed to share how HIV/AIDS has affected our family. Reminding me and hopefully others, why we remember those whose lives were lost long before the disease was understood. But more importantly, I trust this will give you hope that despite so many lives taken before their time, today thanks to life-saving drugs, there are many who are given hope and a new opportunity.

This is her story:

When I was 12 years old my brother and I watched a movie called “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” starring a young John Travolta. Filmed in 1976 it is the true story of a boy with a deficient immune system who had to live in a completely sterile environment, any contact with a virus or bacteria could kill him. This movie intrigued me, I tried to imagine what life would be like if I had no immune system to protect and heal me from common ailments; I never thought that I would be directly affected by  a virus that destroys the immune system, killing my only sibling. Although “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” is not about HIV/AIDS,  it was the first thing I referred to when I heard that a friend of my uncle’s had died of a strange disease that had caused his immune system to fail. That was around 1981.

AIDS became more personal to me in mid-September 1988. My dad was crying in church. I asked him what was wrong and he just kept crying. Finally he said, “Rob has AIDS.” I started crying too but I don’t remember thinking that my brother was actually going to die, at least not right away. Three weeks later we buried him in a quiet little graveyard near our home.  So, I am affected by
HIV/AIDS forever, my family is also affected. What I miss most about my brother is our shared memories. He is the only child whogrew up with me, no one else remembers robbing our piggy banks to buy ice cream at the corner store– feeling very sneaky or fishing for bullfrogs or trying to stay dry while camping during a rain storm in a tiny pup tent in Barkerville.  And we fought so much about the stupidest things.

In 2001 I travelled to Zambia for the first time where I saw the effect of HIV/AIDS in Africa. I volunteered with Seeds of Hope Children’s Ministry , they built a home for children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS; it was built as a place for children to be cared for and then to die in loving arms, like a hospice. For the first few years many children did die, their parents died and  the morgues were overflowing.

When ARV’s became available in Zambia in 2004 there was a miraculous change. People who were literally hours away from death became healthy again.  Lisa was one of those little girls, she was very close to dying; her mother was called in to cuddle with her for her last days. She was started on the medication and her improvement was so dramatic–also known as the Lazarus effect– that instead of burial plans her mom was making plans for this girl’s future. As I have watched healthy but HIV+ children in Zambia swallow these gigantic pills 2 times per day I marvel at the hope there is in this world;  I am thankful for the advancement of medicine and for those who advocate for free ARV’s in third world countries. I secretly wish I could go back in time to give the ARV’s to my brother so he can live a little longer.

People may think that AIDS does not affect their lives personally because they don’t know of anyone who has died of AIDS or who is living with HIV. But we really don’t know who has the disease and unless you are in an intimate relationship with someone who is infected, we don’t need to know.

I believe we are all affected by the virus, we must remember that each person who has died was a brother  or sister, son or daughter, mother or father, each person had a name, loved by individuals and left a gap in the life of that family. They left a gap in this world.

Visit www.seedsofhopecm.com to learn how you can support life changing work in Zambia, Africa, where my mum has worked. 

The same children’s home which was once a hospice for the dying is now providing education and skills for children who are LIVING to become leaders in their communities and in their country!

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