Today is a special day in my heart. It’s World AIDS Day! I love bringing awareness to certain days in the year. Its both fun and educational for me! I’ll be real with y’all. Writing this post or really deciding to write this post weighed heavy on my heart.
As y’all may or may not know, my mother died when I was little. I was raised by my grandparents. How did she die? Well you can guess from this title what the cause was. However, I never knew it. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I actually found out the truth. I was in college when I was told about how she really died. She found out she had it after my dad died. All I knew was that my family didn’t really talk about my dad and quite frankly, they weren’t too fond of him. My godmother Michelle told me about how he was mean to her and was low-key abusive and so I figured that’s why they hated him. I didn’t even think that it was also him giving her the disease.
What happened? I went to a doctor’s appointment and they asked me about the type of cancer my mom had. I told the doctor that I actually didn’t know. She insisted I call home and ask. Maybe that was Jehovah stepping in because after my appointment, I called home to find out the type of cancer my mom had. My grandma answered the phone and I asked what type of cancer my mom had. She laughed and said “she didn’t have cancer. She had AIDS”. I was shocked. “Why didn’t anybody tell me?!” I asked. “Because we didn’t want you to get hurt. Why do you need to know anyway?” she replied. “Because I’m at the doctor and she wanted to know what cancer she had”. “Oh” was all she could say and I got off the phone with her. I felt so stupid. So naive. How many other people knew the truth but me? She later on forgot that she told me (she’s in her eighties so she’s old) and was “upset” that someone told me.
When I was growing up, I was told she had cancer. I took that explanation and ran with it. Looking back now, the signs were there but I was way too naive to realize it. After I found out, turns out everyone else around me knew the truth. My family. My neighbors. A close friend of mine. I remember one thing that happened to me in middle school. We were on the bus heading to St. Augustine, Florida. This boy had some lip balm and my lips was feeling dry so I asked if I could some of his (I was gonna use my finger) and he said no because I might have AIDS. Now, some may brush it off as a 12 year old being mean or overly cautious but he was close friend with someone I consider a close friend (but let’s be honest she was nice nasty to me really) so it stung when he said that loud enough for people to hear. I wanted to cry.
Other things make sense now that I think of it, for example, how upset they’d get if I asked what cancer it was that she had or how every few months I’d go to a doctor’s appointment that ended up with me going to the hospital to get my blood drawn. To even finding a letter that stated that my mom died from AIDS and I thought to myself why would my grandparents lie about such a thing for a fee waiver? Some months down the line of me finding out the true nature of her death, my aunt told me on the phone of how my mom was explaining it to my brother and thats how she found out.
A month ago, I saw a commercial on TV about a drug that they have for HIV positive patients. It was the first time, for me, to see a commercial like this on TV. We have come so far in medicine that it’s just openly talked about on TV and this commercial proves it. It follows a woman named LaDeia who actually uses the drug and shows all the great things she can do in spite of her having HIV. you can find it here. I thought about why I didn’t see any commercials like this in Tallahassee. It later occurred to me that places like Orlando and Miami have these types of commercials because they’re both bigger cities and have a higher number of people who are HV positive. In fact, according to AIDS Walk Orlando, Florida is number 1 in the nation for new HIV and AIDS cases and Orlando is ranked sixth on the state of new cases.
We have come very far in medicine compared to like 30 years ago when the disease was first discovered. We have made progress but we have much more to go. Thanks to new medicines, people can live longer lives and can even get to the point where the disease can be undetected or less likely to given to others, that is if they are taking their medication correctly and responsibly. According to HIV.gov, there are about 1.1. million people living with HIV in the U.S. and about 15% of people don’t realize that they have it.
I urge all of you to get tested. If you’re not sure where to get tested or where to find helpful resources, you should check out sites like HIV.gov or your local community health clinic. Donate some time or money to causes like AIDS Walk. The more informed you know the more you can better protect yourself. In fact, recently, there’s been a new strand of HIV that’s been discovered. You can read all about that here.
I know that was a lot but I hope you learned from my experience of what happened to me. I thank Jehovah that I’m not HIV positive. I feel a bit sad because well, my mom isn’t here due to this disease. I feel hurt and lied to. I still find it hard to say the words that my mom had AIDS. I’m still afraid that I’ll be judged (which ironically was the thing my grandma was hoping to avoid). But there you have it. There’s my truth. Hopefully this gives you something to think about.