Stories for World AIDS Day: Telling Your Child

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 shock.

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 very sensitive.

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 die. 

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 encourage her.

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?

 

Posted at 07:37

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