Wednesday, March 11, 2009
It shocks me how ignorant many people in the developed world still are about AIDS. The stigma is still real in 2009. When we moved here it was probably the number one odd concern tossed at us by skeptics. "Oh, Haiti? There are a lot of people with HIV there. Will you be safe?" One woman (who knew Britt used gloves and was very careful) actually suggested that Britt might have it from working with patients with wounds. Seriously, that is just total and complete ignorance. If you fear Africa or Haiti because of this reason, please head to the library or google it or something. It's time to come out of your cave. I'm sure many of you think I'm nuts - but there are A LOT of people that believe total bunk about this disease.
I find this video to be both convicting and powerful. Facing HIV/AIDS is not something I had to do in my pre-Haiti life. I never thought much about it. If I did I certainly was not too terribly sympathetic.
There was one boy in LaDigue that died of AIDS while we were living out there. Jean was 17 or 18. His body withered in the three years we knew him. Watching the way others treated him was the hardest part about watching his disease.
Since we began working with the Women in the Heartline program we've seen multiple cases of AIDS. I no longer think of people affected as "those people". In truth they are people just like you and me. Some understand how they got the disease, some do not. All of them are afraid and all of them are devastated.
Recently a woman in our program named Marie Jo tested positive. As we told her that news for the first time I could see fear and disbelief setting in. Marie Jo said she did not think the test was right. We encouraged her to re-test. She went for three more tests, each returning a positive result. It was heartbreaking to see her countenance change as she began to let that result settle into her soul. We spoke with her at length and agreed with her that it seemed not to make sense. She told us that she wanted to marry the man in her life to make a family for her baby and to get her life on track. She was married in December of 2008 and she had to test then in order to get her marriage license. At that time she tested negative. Now three months later she tests positive. The man she married currently tests negative. She is right, that is confusing. We wondered aloud with her if maybe the December results were mixed up or the test administered incorrectly. She is scared and heartbroken as she faces giving birth in a few months and telling her husband that the positive test is the correct test.
Our nature is to want to place blame. If there is fault maybe then it is okay to write them off and let them fend for themselves ... or at least that is how it seems the logic of many works. If you were sleeping around you deserve it...You're to blame.
I like the part of the video where the Pastor reminds us that Jesus did not ask the blind man how he became blind. He just loved him. I recently came face to face with the darkness that is HIV as I took a friend of mine in Haiti for a test. Wondering and waiting for results was torturous as time ticked by slower than it ever had.
It would never occur to us to say to someone diagnosed with Cancer, "Well how did you get it - were you using unsafe cleaning products? Weeeellll then. Uh-huh. It is your fault!" Could we ignore our smoking friend diagnosed with Cancer? Would we walk into a hospital room of a dying man with lung cancer and shake our heads and point our fingers? If someone we know causes a major car-accident by speeding through a red light would we tell his wife "Sorry we cannot help you - it was his fault - deal with the consequences."
Who is to blame? To me that is an irrelevant question. The question should be, how can I respond with love?
This is real. Our response must be real love.