By, Ascellia M. Arenas
I have seen the face of AIDS. I lived with it. I was forced to move in with my sister’s good friend when I was a freshman in college. I got into an altercation with my roommates/friends and my choices were to pack my bags and go home, or move in with Chaz. Chaz had full blown AIDS. It was 1992 and the developmental research and drug therapy available then was not as progressive as it is today in 2010. He had to take a long list of pharmaceuticals to keep him alive. He had baby fine hair (much like a Cancer patient’s new-growth after chemotherapy), sallow looking skin with breakouts of Kaposi’s sarcoma, and other bruising and scars all over him. He was rail thin, a walking skeleton with skin. He was, however, kind enough to open his home to me when “friends” turned their backs. I will never forget him for that. I was 17 years old, a freshman in college, and had never been away from home for longer than a few days. Needless to say I was afraid. I thought…could I catch AIDS if I drank from a glass he drank from? Would I catch AIDS because I live under the same roof with him? The obvious answers to those questions are no. Because of him, I started getting tested back then and today I am still HIV negative.
I ended up making the Dean’s List Honor Roll that semester. I gained a powerful education, not only in human resiliency but in what it means to be someone’s friend.
Chaz has long since passed away. When he was HIV negative, he was a DJ, a dancer, an aspiring actor, and the life of the party. He did not know that his lifestyle would cause him to die an early death.
I know several people who have passed due to complications related to AIDS. I know several people who are LIVING with HIV/AIDS. They take therapeutic prescriptions that help to sustain their lives. They are survivors who know that life is precious. They are human vessels of knowledge and will share with you the secret to true happiness. People with HIV/AIDS are not the enemy: AIDS is the enemy. As of 2007 over 33 million people have been diagnosed with HIV, over 200 thousand children have died. Today’s demographics exceed those numbers significantly and are still growing. Is it sad? Yes. Is it preventable? Yes. Is it possible to live a happy and productive life with with HIV/AIDS? Yes. Do you know your status?