The 1st of December 2010 was International Aids Day but that wasn’t really at the top of my mind as I was driving home from work that afternoon. What was in my mind was an inspiring story on ABC Radio about a woman who had volunteered as a ‘Living Book’ for Kiama Library’s Living Books program. The idea itself is a fascinating one where members of the community with an interesting story to tell can make themselves available to library patrons by telling that story and then interacting face-to-face answering questions. A terrific and inspiring idea which captivated me.
The 1st of December was International Aids Day and an articulate woman (I don’t recall her real name but I will call her Grace) as a Living Book was describing her story about contracting HIV and how she is managing her life with the virus and how her family is managing too. Grace contracted HIV after an intoxicated heterosexual one-night-stand. Grace’s partner had used a condom but it had broken during the act. End result, Grace was diagnosed with HIV approximately 12 weeks after the event.
The 1st of December was International Aids Day and it was the day I found out so much more about HIV listening to Grace’s story. The event for Grace was life changing. I immediately thought of one of my wife’s sayings ‘The ordinary instant’. My wife’s favourite author is Sarah Ban Breathnach and Sarah explains her ‘Ordinary Instant’ concept wonderfully in her book Moving On; ‘Suddenly, inexplicably, and more often than anyone ever suspects, life stuns us with loss’. Meaning that life can stun us in an instant, an ordinary instant, but it changes us for the rest of our lives.
The 1st of December was International Aids Day and I was feeling quite emotional listening to Grace’s story and in awe of her strength to go on and marry and successfully raise a HIV-free family. Proving, that HIV is not an AIDS sentence, it is not a death sentence, if it is managed the right way. All AIDS sufferers have HIV, but not all HIV sufferers will get AIDS. Nevertheless, if it was my choice, I wouldn’t want HIV and nor would anyone by choice. Sometimes though, in an ordinary instant that could be what is dealt.
The 1st of December was International Aids Day and Grace the Living Book was explaining why HIV positive individuals need special health care and support to be able to participate in their community free from stigma and discrimination. I can clearly remember the stigma and fear associated with AIDS in the 80s and 90s. Little children kicked out of kindergartens, people afraid to associate with homosexuals, the intolerance and ignorance of people generally.
The 1st of December was International Aids Day but there are many more viruses in the world and some of them are far more deadly than HIV. A virus may even wipe out the human population one day. The view that bad things only happen to bad people is misguided at best, downright evil at worst. The day that the very first child died in pain and agony is absolute proof this is not the case. A virus is a living organism that has the need to replicate and it will do so without discrimination. A virus does not discriminate, only people do.
The 1st of December 2010 was International Aids Day; it was also the day that my wife and I received the news that our son has HIV. For him, and us, that was an ordinary instant.