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Turning the day RED

December 1, 2010

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day.  For years the symbol of a single red ribbon has called us to care, and to act.  In 1996, I completed my master’s thesis on the impact of  individuals disclosing to their family that they were HIV positive. During my research I interviewed people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS and in various stages of their journey with a terminal illness.  My time spent hearing their stories was life changing.

I discovered individuals living with courage in the face of a disease that isolated and ostracized.  I discovered many families rising up with compassion and integrity to surround their loved one with their presence.  In spite of the stigma, the known and the unknown, the agony of watching their child, sibling, parent, spouse, friend waste away before their eyes. . .they stayed, and they loved.

I discovered the power of numbers to tell us, “Somebody should do something.”.  I discovered the power of names and faces that told me, “I must do something.”.

A lot has changed in the 15 years since I heard those stories.  Too many have died.  Medicine has helped the battle be more chronic and less terminal.  We’ve gotten smarter and better at prevention.

What hasn’t changed?

  • We are still at risk of letting stigma and ignorance blind us to the names and faces of the individuals and families living with AIDS.
  • We are still at risk of believing HIV/AIDS is not our problem.
  • We are still at risk of robbing ourselves of the gift of courageous stories in exchange for our compassion and action.

We all know someone who has been affected by HIV/AIDS. . .even if we don’t know who they are.  My hope is this is the day we choose to be the eyes and ears of compassion in all our encounters, to those whose wounds are obvious, and to those whose wounds we can’t see.  After all, we are all walking wounded.


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