A Closer Walk

As I began to surf the channels looking for something to watch, I passed by the PBS channel and saw a little baby named “Lucky”, who was obviously in the hospital suffering from full blown AIDS. It was a documentary called A Closer Walk. I watched the documentary, which was narrated by Glenn Close and Will Smith.

There was nothing new that I hadn’t heard, especially since I attended the Conference. But the visuals were unbelievable, and heartbreaking.

Statistics that I heard:

10,000 people die from HIV/AIDS every day.
25 million have already died.
1/3 of all pregnant women in South Africa have HIV.
2,000 children are born with HIV everyday
650,000 children have been born with HIV in 2006.
5.6 million children have died since the disease was discovered.
There will be 40 million orphaned children 5-10 years from now.

HIV/AIDS particularly affects those that are poor, marginalized, dispossessed, not educated, and women and girls. They are the weakest in society. Women and girls are affected worse because they have no power.

The question was asked: What kind of people are we? What kind of world is this that we live in?

What kind of people are we, to let this disease go unchecked as it is? Especially we, who are in the United States and have plenty, why is this happening all over the world. And it is not just in Africa. It is running rampant in Russia. Mostly due to intraveneous use. They share needles. There is no medicine in Russia, and they are poor also. While this may sound strange, there needs to be education in “harm reduction”.

Not that intravenous drug use or any kind of drug use is condoned, but if you are going to do it, do it safely. They need to be able to access clean needles. You do not deserve to die because of your lifestyle. The poor need medication, some people seem to think what is the use in treating them, but it has been proven over and over again that the poor do very well on medication. In Haiti, those with advanced HIV are getting appropriate therapy – they are a “living rebuke” to those that think that the poor will not do well with medicine.

Women and girls have no power in third world countries, and maybe even over here in the United States, if they are living in a violent environment. Women and girls in India that have HIV are deemed worthless, a “non-person”. They go into hospital when they no longer can do their housework, or are kicked out of the house, ironically by the man who has infected them. An example that was unbelievable: a young man knows that he has HIV..is marrying a young woman (an arranged marriage). He desires to use condoms to protect her, but sooner or later the family’s want to know why the woman is not having children. She is ridiculed, called barren. To make matters worse, the family threatens to find the man another wife, who will bear children. What is the young wife to do? Is she to have a baby and risk having HIV/AIDS, or does she risk being thrown out into the street? Nine times out of ten, she has the baby, and getting infected.

The governments in the Asian countries are still in denial. There are no resources for them, and after being seen in a clinic, with no medication, they are usually sent home to die.

Women’s rights are tantamount to fighting this disease. Women in poverty, with no resources, may have no other means of survival than to exchange sexual favors to the landlord or the shopkeeper. Sometimes the only choice between getting beaten and thrown out on the street is having unprotected sex. Women need to be empowered, to take their well-being into their own hands, rather having to be at the mercy of men that care nothing about them. Even sex-workers need protection and human rights. Sometimes sexwork is all the woman has to provide for herself and her family. You do not deserve to die, because of your lifestyle, or because someone else is abusing you.

What kind of world do we live in? What kind of people are we that these conditions exist in our world?

And the orphans..those that are orphaned suffer loss, no friends, responsibilities that they shouldn’t have, no food, sometimes turn into street children, scrounge for food, innocence is gone. They are sometimes shunned because people believe that because someone in their family has died, they too, are infected. And the orphans that happen to also be infected with the HIV virus are really the saddest. They have a double affliction. What is to become of the orphans? Child soldiers? Sex slaves? What rights do they have?

What kind of world do we live in? What kind of people are we that these conditions exist in our world?

There was an african american pastor who was preaching to his congregation here in the United States. He spoke of someone in his family that died from AIDS. He said that when the relative found out that he had AIDS, he found himself a room somewhere, and died: “he was too ashamed to go into the church”. The shame, the stigma, the fear of rejection, the alienation.

All of a sudden, I remembered Andrew Marchant. A friend of mine on Staten Island that I used to get high with. I remember when I got clean, Andrew moved to Manhattan, and called me. I would visit him from time to time. He came over my house and had dinner. He walked with a cane. And one day I was at work, and got a call from his roommate that Andrew wasn’t doing well, and could I please come over. I left my job that hour, and went to Andrew. When I walked in the apartment. It was so dark in there, and poor Andrew was lying on a mattress on the floor. Didn’t want me to see him in the light – the karposi was so bad. I sat with him for awhile. Not much talking, Andrew was in such pain and didn’t want to go to a hospital. He wanted cigarettes. He died two days later. Shame, Stigma, Alienation and Rejection is probably all Andrew felt as he laid there on a mattress on the floor.

I also remembered my husband, who died in 93. I still maintain that it wasn’t the disease that killed my husband. It was the shame, the fear of rejection, and alienation that did him in. So ashamed that he wouldn’t even go and get prescriptions filled because then people would know.

At the end of the documentary, it showed where everyone was. Some had died. Some were still very active in the struggle. It closed leaving us with the message that: we can all do something according to who we are.

“…no man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne

What kind of world should we live in? A world that cares, a world that loves. That is the kind of people that we should be.  That we should care about our neighbor as we care about ourselves, and realize that we are all brothers and sisters.  

tired now…..too much for me to process or even write about.


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