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Another thought on World AIDS Day

December 1, 2008, 9:13 am | Posted by Dan Nejfelt

In high school I participated in a program that trained students in counseling and paired them with elementary school kids in need of support. One year my mentee was a 5th grader who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion as a baby. His deceased older brother was infected in the same manner.

We didn’t sit around and talk about what it felt like to have AIDS, to stare death in the face, to deal with the grueling side effects of countless medications. We talked about his weary mom, his lost brother, his favorite hospitals, his distant schoolmates. We played Connect Four and took walks and practiced multiplication. He didn’t complain much about his suffering, but he clearly knew he was going to stay sick. (This was before antiretroviral treatment was widely available.) In such circumstances, courage is a matter of simple necessity.

He was just one of the diverse faces of HIV/AIDS. Just like Ryan White. Just like Magic Johnson. Just like every one of the silent thousands who die every day.

The people who make AIDS their life’s work have a fortitude I can’t fathom — I can’t even bring myself to confirm whether my little buddy died after we lost touch. But I can offer a prayer for the victims and the mourners, as well as the caregivers, activists and researchers who seek to relieve, prevent and cure HIV. I hope you’ll join me.

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