World AIDS Day

AIDS.jpgThe Tranquilo Traveler has learned some incredible things about AIDS during this journey. First, a few months ago, Tay and I visited the front lines of the battle against HIV/AIDS in Kampala, Uganda. Churches turned into clinics, HIV testing under a mango tree, nuns distributing ARVs in the pews, communities coming together to support positive neighbors. Really incredible and even uplifting. Then, there was this e-connection with the creators of www.natavillage.org. For World AIDS Day, I invite you to read these entries, follow the links, and tell someone else about it. Then maybe even take some small (or big) action.
Here’s one more thing — a Peace Corps friend sent me this report from Claire Dillavou (another Peace Corps friend), the HIV/AIDS Project Director for USAID in Namibia. Read on:

Happy World AIDS Day!

Well not necessarily happy that one particular day is assigned to bring attention to a horrible disease, but happy that attention is being paid globally nonetheless. We should be able to get to the point where this single day of awareness becomes a month of awareness and eventually an accepted regularly addressed health issue in both prevention and care and treatment 365 days a year. And as a catalyst to such we must remember this is a disease affecting humanity. All of it. You and Me. Us.

This morning I went on rounds with the docs at the largest hospital in the Namibia and it has the largest ART (Antiretroviral therapy) clinic with 9,000 patients with HIV/AIDS, and upward of 5,000 on treatment. It is always great to go on rounds as I am not a doctor but I do love to see the different levels of data collection (informatics nerd) as well as the obvious love of interacting with the people most affected by this disease. The most heart wrenching experiences for me are always the Peds clinic where these kids have no idea what a life without HIV/AIDS is like.

Today I met Sarah, a 12 year old girl chronologically but in terms of physical development, she has the body of a 5 or 6 year old. She was brought in by her 14 year old cousin one day because both her parents have long since died of AIDS and she has been passed from aunt to uncle to aunt etc. Finally her 14 year old cousin started caring for her and brought her when she collapsed. She has been admitted for 3 weeks and has gained 6 pounds and can smile now. We have so far to go and the enormity of the numerous facets of the disease can be incredibly overwhelming, but such individual stories filled with hope and heartache are where the common bond of humanity tugs at your heart strings to strengthen your resolve and refuel your motivation in this continual fight.

Unbelievably touching, these moments always remind me of how grateful I am, and need to continue to be. When I think of the factors involved in contributing to my HIV negative status, it is an undeniable reality that geography plays a large role in that I was born and lived in a location where HIV prevalence is much lower than my current location, drugs are widely available, and there is free and easy access to education and information around the disease. So even if you feel geographically detached from the disease, come visit me, go to your local public health clinic, go to your State health department website, or read a UNAIDS report in order to bring the reality home.

Talk about it. Wear a Ribbon. Get Tested.

Some facts to share with colleagues, friends, strangers, etc:

In the 25 years since the first case was reported:
It has killed 25 million people,
Infected 40 million more,
Become the world’s leading cause of death among both women and men aged 15 to 59, and
Inflicted the single greatest reversal in the history of human development.

In 2006, it has killed 2.9 million people alone.

In other words, it has become the greatest challenge of our generation.

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