When watching an old episode of Bill Nye on YouTube with my granddaughters, I was struck by how much has developed with understanding and treatment of HIV and AIDS since the episode was made in the 1990s, an episode I remember watching with their mother.
When HIV first began infecting humans in the 1970s, scientists were unaware of its existence. Now, more than 35 million people across the globe live with HIV/AIDS. Of these 35 million, the greatest burden is in the developing world.
But the face of HIV/AIDS is made up of individuals, and the impact creates ripples. As parents have died, leaving behind children to be cared for by grandparents and communities, many children are raised, not being able to attend school. Community and family resources are strained. Yet, as Catholics, we can be very proud of the efforts of the Catholic Church to help meet the needs of our sisters and brothers who have been impacted by this disease.
From the earliest days when HIV had been identified;
*Worldwide shortages of gloves for physicians developed, I remember scrambling to find gloves for a Mission Doctor in Malawi.
*As one of our dentists began serving in Cameroon, his care and treatment reflected his advanced knowledge of risks, and he was also able to train others in how to manage the risks inpatient care.
*As treatment became available to prevent the transmission from mother to child, initially mothers in Zimbabwe were reticent to be tested – one Mission Doctor quietly took these mothers on a tour of a pediatric ward filled with children suffering with HIV/AIDS. At the end of that tour, all the mothers requested to be tested.
While infection rates have fallen or stabilized in many countries across the world, we have a long way to go. In the locations where Mission Doctors serve HIV/AIDS continues to be a dominant issue facing communities. Please continue to keep these individuals and their families in your prayers.
As today is World AIDS Day – my prayer is that when my granddaughters are adults this will be a story of yet greater success, that not only treatment but the end of new infections. Please join me in this prayer as we remember it is not just about the numbers but the individuals.