December 1st. You know, it’s not only unfortunate that we set aside this day every year—it’s actually tragic. It’s unfortunate that there’s just one day set aside to call out as a reminder to such a devastating global disease; it’s tragic that lives continue to be lost despite efforts to educate and help prevent its life cycle.
When I think about the past and present of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, I am always reminded by the media that there are some horribly misinformed ideas about how this disease spreads and who it affects. It affects only gay men. White people can’t get it. It’s a poor people thing. Only in Africa. Drug addicts and prostitutes. If we, as a larger society, continue to function on this idealism that it’s never going to happen to us because we are (or are not) ________, then we are setting ourselves up for failure.
Despite what some organizations and vocal individuals around the world would have us believe, no one is fully out of the reach of this horrible disease. Sure, some groups may have a statistically insignificant risk of contracting the HIV virus, but chances are, we all know someone who is a member of a higher risk group. If you’re like me, you know more than one person, and they each hold a special place in your heart. But even if you don’t know someone personally and HIV/AIDS is affecting only strangers, let this serve as a reminder that their lives are no less valuable than any of ours. Every human deserves to be fully educated, protected, and cared for whether it’s individual information about condoms and intravenous drug use, better institutional regulation of handling blood-borne pathogens, or access to medications and a strong support system that values the whole person without vilification.
As a white, monogamous, drug-free, middle-class lesbian living in the United States, I fit none of the groups that are often decried as the perpetuators of the HIV/AIDS virus. So why do I care about today? Why should you care about this day? Because for the vast majority of people living with HIV or AIDS, they all thought it wouldn’t happen to them—right up until it did. Because lives are still lost every day: children are orphaned and fathers and mothers lose their children. Because education is still lacking: people truly believe HIV is contracted from a toilet seat, that HIV is the same as AIDS, and that being HIV+ is a death sentence. Because as children of God, we are called to be advocates for those who are not heard and help those in need without pausing to ask why or if our help is deserved.