What’s It Going To Take

Red Ribbon

I’d like to invite you to join me September 18, 2011 for the C.A.R.E.S. AIDS Walk in Sacramento, California. Four generations of my family, friends, and several Eternal Scheme readers are signed up! If you can’t join us to walk, won’t you please consider donating to our Dare to Care Team? Click here to get the details for walking or donating.

What is it about the human condition that it isn’t until we experience something or someone close to us experiences something that we begin to pay attention? Rarely are we motivated purely by humanitarian altruism or just because it’s the right thing to do.

Polls taken in the 1990s found HIV/AIDS to be the number one health concern among Americans. My guess is that by the 1990s the majority of Americans knew of someone, either personally or by celebrity, who was living with or died from HIV/AIDS. Celebrities were lending their names and efforts to The Cause and serious attention was directed toward education and prevention.

Today, we hear more about the devastation occurring in Africa and India where at least sixty percent of the population is living with HIV/AIDS. We also know that the incidences have more to do with economics and access to health care than we care to acknowledge. After all, why should we care about women and children who become or are sold as sex workers because it is the only way for them to put food in the children’s stomachs? Or that men bring HIV back to their wives when they return to their villages? That’s half-a-globe-away and we have our own issues du jour to consider.

The nurse case manager I worked with left hospice the same time I did, but for different reasons. She understood the need for hospice care to those with AIDS, but thought I was risking too much to be involved myself. A few years later, she called me out of the blue. Her internationally renowned Los Alamos scientist brother, who was married with four children, was dying from AIDS.

The prominent local citizen had nothing good to say about a certain group until he learned his own son, who was part of that group, was dying from AIDS. The large, regional church I served didn’t want to acknowledge there was probably someone with AIDS in the congregation until the organist came forward at a staff meeting. Those who came to see me in my office looked askance at the basket of condoms that sat on my desk, until they thought they should go get tested and wondered if I would come with them to get their results.

I understand the human condition well enough to know this is how it is. What I find both disconcerting and scary are those that refuse to deal in reality in 2011. Texas ranks fourth, behind New York, California, and Florida, in HIV/AIDS cases. Houston ranks eighth in U.S. cities with the most cases. Yet Texas ONLY teaches abstinence to middle and high school students, with nothing about safe-sex practices. The county I live in has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state, just this year a 13-year old had a baby, and yet no one will challenge this absurd policy! That’s just pregnancy, nothing about HIV.

HIV/AIDS is not going to go away by itself or by burying our heads in the sand. It also doesn’t have to be the only social-health issue we talk about. But it needs to be acknowledged and we must do the right thing.

Bonus: Check out this brief article and interactive map.

June 2011 marked the 30th anniversary of HIV/AIDS. This is another reflection from my experience working with HIV/AIDS, 1984-1993. You can catch up on previous installments by clicking on HIV/AIDS in the Topics box. 

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