world aids day 2009
(no awful ’80s earworms today. promise.)
today is world AIDS day, a day started in 1988 to bring awareness and education to the plight of those living with HIV and AIDS. years ago, when i worked at the US Dept of Education, i had the privilege of putting together two years’ worth of WORLD AIDS Day commemorations plus helping to develop training materials for fellow employees so that they would understand how to deal with employees who were HIV+/AIDS patients. (in short: treat them as you would want to be treated. you won’t catch the disease from working with people.) i was proud to volunteer the Department’s building to house part of the AIDS Quilt, which was at the time laid out on the National Mall for all to see. while sadly, the quilt has gotten larger, we seem to be learning more about slowing the disease and helping those afflicted live longer.
i know people who have died of complications from AIDS. i also know people who are living with HIV/AIDS.
yesterday, i was talking with my kids about AIDS, which is not easy to do when the kids are 10 and 6. i explained that it stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. BC looked at me a little scared. don’t you have immunodeficiency, mom?
in fact, when i was first diagnosed with CVID, some people thought i had AIDS. i do, honey, i replied, but that’s different from AIDS. the A in AIDS means “acquired” which means doing something to get the virus. i didn’t do anything to get this immunodeficiency; i just was born with these particular genes. and you can’t catch it from me unless you have the same genes, too.
hellboy wasn’t getting this, really, but girlfriend was. and she continued. so what do you have to do to get AIDS? she asked.
well, basically, you can get it from other people’s body fluids.
she crushed up her nose. you mean, like pee?
once again, i am the one with the fun topical conversations, not BS. well, things like blood, for example. before they knew more about HIV, they didn’t know much about the blood supply, so people who were hemophiliacs who got transfusions sadly ended up dying of AIDS.
what are hemophiliacs?
people whose blood doesn’t have the stuff in it to help them stop bleeding. a little cut could kill a hemophiliac if not treated properly.
girlfriend was connecting dots again. you mean, like when you had no platelets and were bruising? she looked sad.
that’s a different problem, and i’m better now. but sort of. (time to divert the attention in order to get her away from the thought of my demise.) anyway, people who share needles when they shoot up their drugs can give it to each other. so don’t do drugs and that’s one problem solved.
ewww! who would do that!!!! she exclaimed.
not anyone with any sense, i said. anyway, another way of getting HIV is… i looked over at the boy, who was probably busy thinking about star wars and continued cautiously…through sex.
girlfriend’s eyes now got HUGE.
we can talk about that part away from your brother right now since i don’t think he understands this the way you do. but know that there are things you can do to keep yourself as healthy as you can be.
girlfriend seemed satisfied with that answer, only stopping to note: mommy, isn’t that guy on EastEnders a guy with AIDS? (we’re so far behind in our episodes here in the US that Mark Fowler is still alive.)
yes, honey. and he still is living like everyone else on the show.
i got a nod from her, and then we moved on.
it’s never easy talking with your kids about AIDS, but i figure if i start early at ages when they can understand and in words that they can comprehend, maybe i’ll help them out somewhere down the road.
then again, maybe somewhere down the road, there will be a cure for this scourge and moms won’t have to have these sorts of conversations.