My family has been dealing directly with HIV and AIDS for almost 30 years, yet the disease and its effects still feel so foreign to me. My father, a hemophiliac, contracted HIV in early 1982 after a blood transfusion shortly after I was conceived. He died in 1991 when I was right, my sister 10. Coming from a large family, he had three brothers, and three nephews, all hemophiliacs, all infected with HIV. Some have lived and some have died.
What I can tell you from experiencing AIDS up close is that it is an awful way to leave this life. It is brutal on both its victim and their family. I have known the disease my whole life, intimately so, yet when I see the efforts put forth by the broader community to stem the spread and effects of AIDS. I somehow disassociate and feel like it is something that has not deeply effected my life. I have no idea why, as I’m not against speaking out, telling our story, or giving my time and resources.
The only answer I have been able to come up with is that AIDS, just like so many of the things that life can afflict you with, is something you deal with, you manage, and try to continue to live your life and move forward. I think that has been the testament of my family, it has never defined them, or prevented them from living. Granted ignoring the disease completely and not openly speaking about it has its drawbacks. I am glad for the work of the broader community to rid the world of a disease so awful that affects so many, many you would never think. But I would remind you all to keep living, to not let AIDS define your life, that it can be the driving force that reminds you everyday to keep living and moving forward.
For World AIDS Day, we’re inviting you to share your AIDS stories with us here on The Atlantic Tumblr. If you know someone who is living with AIDS, or are HIV positive yourself, feel free to submit a post or tag your entry with #My AIDS Story and we’ll post your submissions here.