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A special thought for those who are struggling with AIDS

01-12-2005

On World AIDS Day, ICRC staff member Médiatrice Nsekalije urges us to break down the barrier of indifference that stands between us and those who are living with HIV/AIDS.

Life flows by quietly enough for some of us, but for those who have come face to face with HIV/AIDS it is a raging storm, whether they have lost a loved one to the most dreaded virus of our time or whether they themselves have drawn the short straw in the lottery of life and must now contend with this illness until the day they die.

It is not easy to imagine the physical and mental torment endured by Aids patients, especially those whose suffering is compounded by material deprivation. Nor is it easy to imagine their despair, or what it is like to live night and day with the stigma that is inevitably attached to their condition. And yet it might be of some comfort to all those who are struggling with AIDS to know that we are thinking of them.

 
"Thinking of those who... must now bear the reproving looks of others, in whose eyes they see reflected a guilty and sullied image of themselves" 
 

Thinking of the men, women or children who have just found out that, slowly but surely, their bodies are going to be wasted away by the virus.

Thinking about how hard it must be for them to come to terms with their fate and accept that while the world will go on turning, their own world has come to an end.

Thinking of those who, whatever the circumstances in which they were infected, must now bear the reproving looks of others, in whose eyes they see reflected a guilty and sullied image of themselves.

Thinking of those who are simply awaiting death because they were unable to obtain the drugs that could keep them alive, and of those to whom these drugs are readily available but who, try as they may, cannot bring themselves to take them.

Thinking, too, of those who are doomed to take a dozen or more pills a day, especially the child who already knows that this is a life sentence and who, before he can even count on his fingers, has learned the prescribed dosage by heart – six in the morning, six at noon and six in the evening.

Thinking of our colleagues, friends and relatives who have contracted this terrible virus and who suffer from not being able to talk about it freely (let us be thankful to those who have dared to open their hearts to us for this sign of trust).

Thinking, finally, of the doctors and researchers who, out of the goodness of their hearts and a sense of compassion for the sick, are doing their very best to find a cure for this pandemic.

But how many of us really devote much thought to all this? Is the small comfort AIDS patients may derive from knowing that they are on our minds simply based on an illusion?

The slogan of the World AIDS Campaign is " Keep the promise. " So why not promise to think of those who have AIDS – or even to help them in whatever way we can?