As we look towards World AIDS Day on December 1, I am thinking
about stories - the stories of children and families living with
HIV in the poorest parts of the world. 2.3 million children are
living with HIV right now, today, on this Tuesday in 2012. 2.3
million. A number that most of us can't wrap our brains around. And
each one has a story.
We have been collecting stories in special focus groups over the
past few months about the process of telling a child that they have
HIV. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to break the news to
your child that they have this dreaded virus in their blood? When
should you do it? How will your child react? What will you say?
Here's a story from a woman I'll call Mary, who had to tell her
10-year-old daughter Ruth that she had HIV. I've paraphrased a bit
(and changed the names), but I want you to hear her story about
telling Ruth that she is living with the dreaded HIV.
I had planned to disclose to
Ruth and tell her about her status at a certain time, but that time
came before I planned. There was a television show about HIV
medicines, and suddenly I had to tell Ruth. It brought
I had already sat with my older
children and told them that we had to take care of small Ruth. But
the TV had this show about HIV medicines, and suddenly Ruth was
asking me, "So, are we HIV-positive?" The impact was so
serious. The situation was very tense.
Suddenly, she was realizing "Oh,
I'm HIV positive." I knew that she was already learning about HIV
in school, and a lot of what they learn is that HIV will cause
death, that if you have HIV, you are going to die. I was planning
to tell her gradually, and suddenly she was very tense and
realizing that she was one of those who had HIV.
"Are you sure I'm on drugs for
HIV?" she asked. I told her, "You are very young, just sit
down, listen to me, I want you to eat something." I got some milk,
and I gave it to her because she was shaking. She was shocked, so I
gave her milk
I expressed a lot of love. She
was crying, and I lifted her up with my hands. I sat down with her.
I was really feeling for her. I also cried with her. I wanted to
listen what she would say. I took my time with her because it was
She asked me, "You mean, I'm not
going to live." I told her, "No. You are going to live." What she
had heard on the news was that there were not yet medicines to cure
HIV, and so she was sure that now she was going to
That night, she told me that she
was not going to sleep in her bed, that she wanted to sleep with
me. I told her, "It is okay." I knew she was stressed. I took the
Bible, and I read those verses that encourage. I read her such
verses like "God knew you before you were born." I went to the
verse in St. John where it says the love of God is great. I picked
another verse from Psalms about our lives, where it says how God
knows us and how our lives are in His hands. I tried to build her
up, and it was very tough. Ruth said she was not going to school
the next day. I requested a day off from my job to be with her. I
took some CDS and put on TV about the word of God. I was trying to
Then, we started getting
counseling at AMPATH, and slowly, as she has gone to those
counseling sessions, she has begun to accept what this means. She
has begun to be strong again, especially as she is told that she
can continue to live and that she can have hope. It has really
required a lot of love.
Who is Mary? She is a mother who loves her daughter. She lives
in western Kenya, and both Mary and Ruth happen to be infected with
HIV, but the important part of this story is the love and the hope
that this daughter will grow up strong and healthy and loved and
loving. And, really, isn't that the story of almost every mother
and daughter on this spinning globe?