“I don’t know what to do,” were the first words I spoke when I was told I was HIV positive. New to the area, jobless, uninsured, with only my family for support; I didn’t have a clue what to do. From being tested, to getting help from a mental health therapist, to making medical decisions such as when to start anti-viral medications, CARES has been the support I needed to learn how to live with HIV. One and a half years later, I still rely on the support, expertise, education and compassion of CARES and its staff to help me thrive with this life changing event. Thank you for joining team DARE TO CARE as we walk for others like me– and in memory of those who have gone before us– as we join the fight to end this disease (My Son).
It was a glorious day for the Capitol City AIDS Walk in Sacramento Sunday! Our Dare to Care team of 26 gathered at the Capitol steps at 7:30 AM, no easy feat with small cherubs. Thankfully, Starbucks was a sponsor and my son’s partner brought doughnuts, so everyone was fueled for the walk. Our youngest walker was my 15-month granddaughter and our oldest walkers were my 76-year old parents!
My nurse sister and HIV son organized our team. Colleagues and daughters of my sister (UC Davis Medical Center was also a sponsor), family friends (I officiated their wedding 20 years ago!) and one of their daughters, a friend of my mother’s (who I also count as part of Eternal Scheme community), my parents, my brother, sister-in-law, three teen nieces, my son, daughter-in-law and their three daughters, and my saintly husband and me rounded out our team.
The great thing about walking is getting to talk to everyone! I hadn’t seen the couple whose wedding I did in eons, although the wife has been reading my blog since it’s inception. I had never met my sister’s colleagues and their daughters. I knew my Mom’s friend followed my blog and it was such a blessing meeting her and having a chance getting to know one another! After having raised two sons, having nieces and granddaughters gives me lots of girlie insight. And, of course, my family is so supportive of my son and each other!
Because of fundraisers like this, many of the tell-tale opportunistic infections that were unavoidable when I was immersed in AIDS work umpteen years ago are virtually nonexistent. Research has contributed to understanding the HIV virus, how it behaves, and insight into significantly improved treatments…especially with early detection. Research findings have also provided better understanding of other diseases, like cancer, and offered more treatment possibilities for other diseases and health concerns as well.
Advocacy and laws have been enacted to protect those living with HIV/AIDS from employment discrimination and medical record privacy…something we ALL benefit from. We know how to prevent the spread of HIV and still have much work to do to continue educating and encouraging all people to use safe sexual practices. Abstinence states, like Texas, need to wake up to reality! We need to make sure that those in the global south have access to condoms and healthcare. We also need to encourage economic opportunities so women and children aren’t forced to become sex workers in order to feed their families.
Millions of people throughout our planet have died from AIDS or health compromises due to HIV. The NAMES Project, also known as the AIDS Quilt, began in 1987 as a way to personalize the devastation of AIDS. After all, these are people, not a statistic. Quilt squares are created by friends and family to honor their loved one. Squares are then pieced together with other squares, forming a unique, beautiful memorial to those who have died. Sections of the Quilt have traveled across the globe for viewing.
The International AIDS Conference will be in Washington D.C. in July 2012. The NAMES Project is planning to “blanket” all of D.C. with the Quilt. Now that will be a sight to see! I’ll be adding information to that as it becomes available. In the meantime, we’re planning to participate in the Capitol City AIDS Walk 2012! The more the merrier and the more we raise!