Friday, November 17, 2006

Confronting AIDS

Friday was my day to confront HIV/AIDS. In the morning, a man came to talk to my host dad. After he left, my host dad told me that he was HIV positive and he came because he didn’t have enough money for transport to go for the treatment he was supposed to get. ARVs are free now, but people from here have to travel very far to get there. If you can go on a bicycle, the closest one is probably an hour away, if you’re strong. If you have to walk, it would take you several hours each way. This man is the father of one of the students I taught in 2002. I had just met his wife on Thursday at a meeting with members of women’s groups. They have 10 or 12 kids. My heart just broke and I could hardly accept what he was telling me. I just thought, no, not these ones.

Then we met with someone who works training and supporting home-based care givers. Many of the older siblings, maybe who were studying, drop out of school when their parents die to take care of the younger children. Many of the youth end up getting married to each other, not because they’re mature enough to enter into marriage, but because they find a mutual connection and they can help support each other.

In the afternoon, we were meeting with an HIV/AIDS support group. They were sharing about how they are insulted and isolated in the community and how they worry about their children. Almost all of them have children and they don’t know how they will take care of their children when they are not always strong enough to farm or to work. They worry about what will happen to their children if/when they die. They ask how they can eat the way they need to when they can hardly get enough food on the table, let alone good food. I couldn’t hold back my tears when they asked what I could do to help them and I had to tell them I don’t know. Of all the people that I’ve seen, these are some of the ones who really need help. I can help them to be self-sustaining in some ways, but there is only so much they can do. The ones we talked to, though, are the ones who are doing well. They have accepted that they are HIV positive. They are getting treatment and for the most part (it depends on the day), they are still fairly healthy. I think we were able to encourage them by being there with them and I think they could see that we love them and that we are together with them. But I cannot imagine the reality of living their loves day to day. It is overwhelming. I cannot imagine the reality of being told that you are HIV positive. I cannot imagine the guilt that some feel and how much they wish they could change the past. I cannot imagine the anger that others feel for their husbands who brought home this disease and then left them alone. There is no life insurance. There is no health insurance.

I’m not sure what to do. I’m not sure what my role is. I don’t think that my calling is to work with HIV full-time, but it will affect anything that I do here.

We prayed together with the group, asking God to bring healing to their bodies and life to their bodies and spirits. We pleaded with God to take care of their children, to meet their daily needs and to give them hope and courage to continue well.

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