Some of us run around all day long, often with a lot of self-importance but little purpose. Some run for their life. Literally.
I wrote before about the South African NGO my best friend works for, Positive Heroes –positiveheroes.org.za – whose focus is aimed at removing the stigma of HIV in a country where AIDS is still too often a death sentence, and at helping people understand that, with a proper and constant regimen of medications, it is possible to live a normal life. But two items made me think about it again. First, the news was all over the grim 30th anniversary of the discovery of HIV/AIDS – the spin was on how much has been accomplished and how HIV has moved from being certain death to chronic disease. Well, in this country at least. In the same week, a panel of experts on KCRW were discussing donor fatigue and how Western countries are getting tired of paying for somewhat costly medications to keep people alive in sub Saharan Africa.
But, before even connecting sick people to the pills that are going to save them, the first step is getting them to understand that life with HIV is worth living, that it’s not shameful and I admire those who have come forward, publicly, black and white and who, to publicize and impress upon others what can be achieved, run marathons, helped by Positive Heroes. How many of us still remember when we weren’t sure whether it was ok to kiss, shake hands, share a glass of water with an infected person? In the US, we take for granted that HIV is just another medical condition and using condoms has become a no brainer, part of high school curricula. Not so in countries where literacy is low, where women are often subjugated to the will of men, where clinics in rural areas are few and far between and often cannot afford to carry the drugs, where explaining and hoping that patients will follow a strict regimen of pills taking still hover between a wing and a prayer.
The video here attached moved me because it underlines the divide between rich and poor countries or, in the case of South Africa, a wealthy country, with inequalities that are still overwhelming. There are still places where finding the voice to say “I am HIV positive and I can do this” is still a superhuman effort. How many of us, healthy ones, could even run a marathon?