|The team, crammed into |
Mama Deborah's courtyard
by Lizzie Fleming
As we sat among a group of women living with HIV/AIDS, Serge asked us the million dollar question:
“Have you been tested?”
The thought had honestly never crossed my mind. Even after hearing the testimonies of five women and men whose lives have been forever changed by this disease, the thought still never crossed my mind. And why would it? I’m a seventeen year old American high schooler. And with that, I’m a total nerd, who’s friends include the band students. I’m not dumb and I hang with a good crowd. So why should I get tested?
Because you never know. No one who told their story got tested because they noticed a change in their health. They just got tested, whether at risk or not. Mama Deborah, who leads the group, said that many were tested when they first decided to meet, and that saved their lives. HIV/AIDS isn’t something that announces its presence, and people can live several years without knowing they have it.
And America doesn’t seem to care. Because apparently it isn’t a big problem. It’s a problem for Africa. And it is. It is a major problem here that needs solving. But that doesn’t mean people in our own community aren’t affected. Sure, I don’t personally know anyone afflicted with HIV/AIDS. Or maybe I do and just don’t know it. Another thing we talked about was the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. One boy at the meeting has to take his medications in secret because his grandmother has said she would kick them out if they had the disease. They then asked us what it was like in America. And the stigma here isn’t nearly as severe, but there’s no doubt that there is a certain degree of judgement.
Because of this, I’d like to get tested. Not sure how that will go over with my parents, but I’d really like to. And not because I’m at risk, not because there’s a chance I may have been exposed to it. But because I sat among fifteen or so women and men who would have never thought they’d have it either.