Globally more than 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. Low and middle income countries hold 97% of these numbers. It is estimated that more than a million infected are living in the U.S. and one in five of those are not aware they are infected. Programs and public service announcements urge Americans to get tested every day. Whether it is the fear of needles, the truth or ignorance that keeps people from being tested the most important thing you can do is know. Know so that you can keep yourself healthy, know so that you can stop the spread, know so that you can live.
Last year I wrote a post about my brother. About eating lunch with a person that is dying. You see 30 years was at one time thought unattainable by him. He was diagnosed before he was thirty. We were afraid he would never see thirty. Thirty? Such a short time. Too short. Unfortunately, my life has been touched by this horrible disease. Touched in a close and personal way. I have lost family members and friends to this disease. But I have also seen them live. Last year sitting at that lunch celebrating Lil'K's fifth birthday I was so afraid that he would not be here to see her sixth. Just as I was afraid he would never see thirty. As we fear every year that there will not be another. As we sat at his house celebrating with cake and dinner just a few months ago, it occurred to me that he was still there. We all were. She was turning six and he was living. Still here. Alive and kicking. It has not been easy. There have been illness and injuries. Things that to normal people would go by unnoticed, but to him were devastating. There was depression and times it was hard to go on. There were friends that left because of it, lovers that hated because of it, and jobs that quit because of it. There were changes in medicines and times without medicines. Times when fighting the system for that medicine seemed as slow and painful as the virus itself. There have been tears and fears. Crying and laughing. All of this...over this thing. This thing...this monster that sucks the life from people is devastating. It is sick. It wreaks havoc. In every part of life. Of living. Not just to those infected but to the ones that love the infected.
The girls and I spent this last weekend with him. He looked SO good. SO healthy. That is the down side of the up side. The looking healthy on the outside and dying on the inside. He is able to shave his beard now. The one that hid a horrible infection he struggled with for so long. An infection the new meds have fixed. He is able to smile without hurting. His jaw and neck are not swollen as they were before. Something the meds have fixed. He is able to enjoy the chips and cheese dip because there are no sores in his mouth. Something the meds have fixed. Friday evening we cooked hotdogs and laughed. Made plans to head to the beach on Saturday. Had a drink and visited. We talk about his health but it is quick. Mostly about his numbers and where they were at the last report. What new meds he is taking and how the side effects are. But this conversation is quick. It is painful to discuss these things. It confirms he is sick. Still a subject that is tender. So we go back to laughing. Planning a sunny day in the waves. Saturday I drive him to work early in the morning. Crabby that I have to wake up earlier than needed but glad to have the time. By the time I pick him up from work he is exhausted. A side effect of the virus and the meds that help fight it. The meds that help to fix so much also help to sap his energy. He has a huge knot on his leg. From where? No telling. It hurts to walk and is uncomfortable to sit. But this is life. His life. And the life of many many others living with the virus. What does he do? He sucks it up. BBQ's the chicken and heads to the beach with us. He does what so many others have to do. He lives. Because he has to. Because he wants to. Because the last thirty years tells him that he could have thirty more. Because he made it past thirty. And wants that next thirty...
In thirty years we have come so far. And we will continue to go further. I look forward to going further. To him going further. I look forward to celebrating Lil'K's seventh birthday. Because it will be a year further that we have gotten.
Yes it is scary. Yes it is horrible. Yes it is hard. But knowing is half the battle. Knowing so you do not continue to infect others. Knowing so you can live.
So go!! Go know.
**Statistics provided by http://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/.