Today we celebrated World Aids day with a mass, speakers, and a skit performed by women, some of whom were HIV+ at the clinic; and like all Ugandan celebrations the day ended with a feast. The celebration was held under a tent outside the clinic and about seventy-five people showed up. AIDS is not something to celebrate or rejoice in, but the openness and ability to share one’s experience living with HIV/AIDS is something that needs to be promoted. The prevalence of AIDS is higher in sub-Saharan Africa then any other country in the world, and people here should not be suffering behind closed doors. Today was all about unity and taking the first step towards ending this crisis. It is not an easy task, but something that needs to be done. Visitors were encouraged to check their status that day and were able to receive counseling. Although I am confident that I am negative, I have yet to be tested and I can understand the fear and anxiety that a single prick of the finger can cause. Two lines on a stick of a rapid HIV test can instantly be a death sentence for a person. The clinic here provides free antiretroviral drugs from the government for HIV as well as testing and counseling on a weekly basis. Every Wednesday it is sad to see the long line of people waiting to pick up their drugs. What is even sadder is seeing the babies in line, and knowing that their future will be full of clinic visits, illnesses, and uncertainties. Wednesday is also immunization day at the clinic and one of immunizers told me that that the one year old twins I was about to inject were HIV+. They both looked sickly with swollen bellies and lacked energy. To be born with an incurable virus is disheartening and makes you feel that enough is enough. We need to find a cure.
|Dancing at World Aids Day|
Currently, I help sponsor two children’s education. Their mother is my friend and co-worker at the clinic and unfortunately HIV+ as well. She is very open in sharing her experience, and she often jokes about dying one day. She is a single mother, and despite her jokes deep down she is terrified about what will happen to her children. She takes small pains and illnesses seriously as she rightly should, but it is hard to think that one day she will not be able to overcome these opportunistic infections.
The priest at mass told all the visitors to look around, see the support system they have, and to utilize the clinic services and the help that is available. He said these things represent Jesus in our midst. Let us all pray for the HIV+ patients in Africa, for Jennifer and her children, and for AIDS to come to an end once and for all. Now is the time. Enough is enough.