For those of you not tied to social networks and/or reading this from your LG in your ice hut December 1st is World AIDS Day. It will probably come as no surprise to you that I have lost a lot of friends to the disease.
I remember being in grade 11 when Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV-positive. My P.E. teacher actually told the class that Johnson HAD to have gotten it from a dude because straight guys don't get it. That was an obviously ignorant statement when we look back, but there was something of a caste system of those with the disease. There were those seen as victims, having contracted the virus through transfusions, being born with it, or cheating spouses . Then the others- the gay boys, the junkies, the promiscuous girls - they were seen as somehow deserving of their illness. The commonality amongst my old friends is that they have all passed away and none of them wanted to die.
They all left parents and friends, children and spouses. They usually suffered from the same types of opportunistic infections, many went blind, some went deaf. All of the people that I knew left the world in very similar fashions regardless of how the Human Immunodeficiency Virus entered their bodies. Unlike us human beings, the little virus does not discriminate. It doesn't care who you are when it destroys you, only that it's goal is to attack your cells and reproduce until it owns you. There is no good way to acquire this hellish virus.
Most of us have done something at some point in time that could have caused injury, illness, or death. It does us no good to blame someone for their condition. We need to provide access to life-extending treatment, compassionate hospice, and assistance for surviving family members after a person with AIDS dies. We need to provide global education without damnation- telling kids that condoms don't work and beating them with a book will not magically prevent sex no matter how uncomfortable the topic makes us.
Today could be a really sombre day for me. I could cry, be angry, or feel guilty for being one of the ones still alive. But I'll just think of the incredible people and how they shaped me and others. I realize it's unrealistic to believe that none of you will contract HIV, but I can hope that you'll play safe and get tested. Try to love yourselves and others today and every day.