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World AIDS Day

World Aids Day, December 1 2003
Today was World Aids Day, December 1st.   A day which, unlike Independence Day or Memorial Day, didn’t entail a major sale at Macy’s, Robinson’s May or even Wal-Mart.  As a matter of fact, when I read the E-version of the LA Times today, I had to make an effort to find the side article that even made reference to World Aids Day. 
I spent most of this afternoon at the Tarzana Treatment Center where there was a local exhibit.   There was part of the quilt, artwork, a time line, poetry, stories about testing positive and stories about survivors, there was even a Wheel of HIV game.   And there was lots of laughter and smiling faces.

 I have been to Shanti support meetings before, where you sit in a room with about 7 other men sharing stories of doom and gloom.   I had never been to an event that was summed up by laughter, hope and (for lack of a better expression) positive attitude.   And all the laughter and funny quips didn’t diminish the seriousness and intensity of why we were there. 
It is estimated that as of today close to 60 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS.  Close to 20 million people have died of AIDS so far.   To make these numbers even more staggering then they already are:  the population of my home country is 15 million.  Imagine the entire population of your country having died of AIDS.   Somebody mentioned that in Los Angeles county alone the number is somewhere around 100,000 people.   That is twice the size of my home town.  
 Close your eyes for just one moment and imagine what that would look like.

 All across the world tonight there are candle memorials being held in honor of those who are no longer with us.   I have dedicated a candle myself tonight by visiting http://www.candlelightmemorial.org/, I invite you to do the same and while you are there read some of the 1,200 dedications that are left by people from Nigeria, Australia, the US, the UK and even Holland.
 When I came home today, I was going over my email and I was reading a note from someone who had seen my ad on a website.  In his email he stated that he enjoyed “charging up bottoms,” he enjoyed having unprotected sex and knowingly and willingly exposes his partner to the HIV Virus.   I had to think back to when I had to tell the person who infected me that I had tested positive and was greeted with the response that he had been positive for over 4 years and thought it understood, henceforth he never saw any need to tell me prior.  He came across as almost being insulted for bringing it up to him. 
I don’t think I will ever grasp that line of thinking, nor do I want to.   And for all the things that should have been or would have been understood when I got infected, they should never have taken precedence over the respect for human life.   It should be understood that life is precious and as such should always be treated with respect.

 HIV is a virus that affects not only those who become infected, but also those directly around the victim.   It is a virus that works from both sides of your body.  While it slowly and meticulously destroys the body on the inside, it reveals the prejudice, ignorance and hatred of those around you. 

 And while my body is trying to fight the damage to my cells, it is my soul and mind that have to fight the damage of the ignorance and hatred of the outside world against those of us who are sick.    Launching a full fledge attack; HIV wants to kill not only your body but your heart and soul as well.

 HIV is a disease, a virus.  It is not an easy ticket-to-ride.  It is not a “Get out of jail free” card.  It is not a weapon of discrimination.  It is not an excuse for hatred.  It is not a reason for firing.  It is not a reason for abandoning. It is not an excuse to forsake respect and decency.  And it is never to be “understood.”
 It is a way of life, both mine and yours.
 My name is Sven

"My Name is Sven" Copyright 2003/2004, All rights Reserved by Author. 
Permission was kindly given by Sven to publish this story.

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