Stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS

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AIDS is a condition (or syndrome) caused by HIV, which is a virus. AIDS can be passed through sexual fluid or blood. It can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or through breast milk. There are many stigmas and misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS, particularly in the 3rd world but also here where we boast first world medicine. As an aside person with HIV may not have AIDS.

You will not cure yourself of AIDS by having sex with a virgin. You will not cure yourself of AIDS or ward it off by having sex with animals. Chances are if you're reading this then you knew that, but this misconception has led to raped virgins in an effort to rid oneself of this illness - leaving a victimised person with the possibility they have HIV/AIDS themselves - further spreading the infection.

Now, here are some misconceptions I hold. You can hug, kiss on the lips, share a glass with, use the same toilet as be coughed on by an HIV/AIDS sufferer and the risk of infection is so small it's negligible. The exception to all this is that if there's blood involved you're at risk. I'm also not suggesting you go out and try all the above, but you can touch people with HIV/AIDS without catching it yourself. 

To be honest the thought of this makes me nervous - why take the risk? At Parachute this year I spent 30 minutes walking 3 or so years in the shoes of Beatrice, a girl from Africa. Her older sister is HIV positive and has a baby girl, but Beatrice is left to care for the baby after her sister dies. Beatrice needs to be tested for HIV - so I go to the clinic and sit down. And wait...and wait. Then I step up to the counter, I'm HIV Negative! What hit me the most is that after this I had the chance to take some HIV positive people back to the village with me - they were just sitting there, not able to return unless someone took them. If this was the real world maybe I'd have thought more deeply about it or asked for some guidance on how infectious they were, but these were strangers to me and my gut thought I should look after myself, so I walked by them.

We fear the unknown, and in the void before HIV/AIDS was investigated something had to fill that void. This fear of the unknown lead us to isolate the sick from the healthy, to remove them from society for the greater good. We believed all sorts of things and those fears have stayed with us, because we haven't wanted to know more than "stay away from the sick people". There is some merit to this approach, it can help prevent HIV positive people infecting others deliberately. But what of the rest? They're ignored.

Why take the risk? Pretty much everyone knows I've had RSI for 4 years - some days it's good, others it's bad. I've had prayer for it, but it's still there. One day I was given a magnetic bracelet to help with the pain in my wrist. It doesn't do much medically but it's a reminder to me that someone cared and reached out with something simple and heartfelt. It's an encouragement that I value more than a lot of the words I've heard. 

For me to take that feeling and give it to others - give encouragement where there is little hope, give support where there seems to be none then I think that'll involve more than words, it'll involve physical contact. That's a good enough reason for me to risk.

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This page contains a single entry by crimson published on April 29, 2010 2:45 PM.

Book Report 1 - "Is that really you, God?" by Loren Cunningham was the previous entry in this blog.

Book Report 2 - "Making Jesus Lord" by Loren Cunningham is the next entry in this blog.

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