Friday, August 1, 2014


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.


  1. Wow, Lizzie. What an eye opener.

    All I can think about is the different meanings of "tested." Taking the test is one thing. That's GETTING tested. Then there's the aftermath of the test: waiting for the result .. dealing with the result. That's BEING tested.

    All of it is hard.

  2. Mr. Hohulin and I got married during the few years when everyone in Illinois who was getting married had to get tested. Lawmakers finally realized that they had mandated testing for an extremely low-risk group and changed the law.

  3. Yes,HIV/AIDS, like many diseases, is one of those that you think everyone gets, and will never happen to you. It is good that you are thinking about it, that it is not something you are pushing out of your mind.
    If anyone is interested, (if you live in Dupage Ct): .... Departments.... Disease Control.... HIV/AIDS. It will give information on how you can get tested through the health department. It is of course, confidential, and they have follow up counseling. Most health Dept's in the US have similar programs.
    As I write this, you are probably saying "see you" to many people. A bittersweet ocassion! Safe travels!

  4. Oops, meant to put everyone ELSE gets....

  5. That definitely is an eye-opener. I will definitely be praying for the people you met today and for the millions of other people that have the disease as well. And continue to pray for you all! xoxo

  6. My prayers go out to these brave people who shared their stories with you. It could not have been easy for them. Thinking about the whole group as you start your journey home. Safe travels. Can't wait to see you Lizzie.