names and faces
Today is World AIDS Day.
The statistics on HIV/AIDS are staggering. In Africa, the region of the world I know best, there are more than 12 million children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. The rest of the world brings that total to over 15 million. In 2007, 1.6 million Africans died due to infection. That's this year. AIDS is the leading cause of death for adults in the countries of sub-Saharn Africa.
HIV/AIDS isn't just a problem in Africa. Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control released a report that notes that the number of Americans infected with HIV is growing at a rate 50% higher than previously believed. This doesn't mean that all is hopeless in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Regular readers of this blog know that I'm not a big fan of the Bush administration, but I give the president credit for his willingness to increase our country's commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS abroad. The strategy is far from perfect, but it's more than any previous administration did. I never would've imagined seeing a picture like the one above (photo: Washington Post) during a Republican administration, but this president seems to understand that fighting AIDS is a moral issue.
Statistics are good in that they help us keep track of what's going on, who's most likely to be infected, and where the disease is spreading. Good statistics help doctors and nurses and epidemiologists and community leaders to plan a response. They help donors to know where to direct resources, and they help those who have been infected to know that they are not alone.
But statistics are only part of the story, and I'm wary of using them for the simple reason that statistics are abstract. And it's easy to ignore things that are abstract, and easy for us to forget that HIV/AIDS is not just an epidemic of numbers and data. HIV/AIDS affects people. And all of those millions of people affected by this disease have a name, and a face, and a story to tell.
My first real encounter with the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on a community came in a rural village in Kenya in 1998, where whispers and nuance told us why someone had died. Later that year, living with a family in the Nairobi suburbs, my hostess showed me pictures of her nephew who had died of the disease. He was thinner and thinner in each picture, and it obviously broke her heart that nothing could be done to help a young man who had been so full of life.
HIV/AIDS is real, and it changes the lives of real people. So today, for World AIDS Day, I want to share some pictures of those I know who are living with AIDS. The pictures of individuals on this post are those who live with the reality of this disease every day. The picture below is of some friends who work hard to help those who are suffering from HIV/AIDS to regain their life through the use of anti-retroviral drugs.
HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, but there aren't nearly enough anti-retroviral drugs to go around to help all those who are infected. Please keep the victims of HIV/AIDS in your prayers today and every day. And if you're so moved, consider donating to the work of my friends at Global Strategies for HIV/AIDS Prevention, who help the poorest of the poor to prevent and fight this dreadful disease.