Lessons from Uganda 2.

Previously, I wrote about the first lesson I learned while in Uganda.  Today, I want to write about another lesson I learned.  While looking for pictures showing an AIDS Ribbon, I came across this:

This is an important message that is not being heard right now.  AIDS is real.  It has been since the 70’s.  It’s killing generations of people.  In Uganda, about 2.2 million of the population is under 16 yrs of age.  There is an entire generation living without parents because there has been an entire generation wiped out from AIDS.  Though, this isn’t even the worst part, these deaths could have been prevented.  AIDS doesn’t have to kill people, and leave others orphaned.  AIDS is preventable.

I learned this stark reality traveling through Uganda.

Lesson 2 :: We’re bigger than AIDS.

Since high school, I have been passionate about the fight on AIDS.  I spent many times educating fellow students during health class, I set up a benefit concert for our area’s AIDS organization, our school chapter handed out condoms – we made sure that people understood the truths of AIDS/HIV.  When I became a Christian (in 1996), I quickly learned that the subject of AIDS was taboo in the church: no one wanted to talk about it, no one wanted to get involved.  Few churches did get involved, but it wasn’t until much later that the entire Church started waking up to the face of AIDS – much thanks to Bono and Rick Warren.

This lesson is not about shaking a fist at the past, rather it’s a lesson about raising arms against the future of AIDS.  In my opinion we all need to agree on some things if we are going to walk hand-in-hand against this epidemic.  These are not “scientific” observations, merely thoughts of one who has looked into the eyes of a dying child (see picture below).

AIDS is not biased.

I saw AIDS alive and well in Africa.  I saw kids with it.  I saw moms with it.  Muslims have AIDS;  Atheists have AIDS; Christians have AIDS.  Old and young, men and woman have it.  No one is immuned to this disease called Acquired Immune Deficiency.

When AIDS hits, it affects the entire family.  When mom and dad are hit with the virus, grandparents are forced to raise their grandkids – which is what is happening now, in Uganda and in other places of the world.  Most of the time, if a child gets AIDS, not much is done to help them.  Either the parent(s) kick the child out – especially if they are old enough to care for themselves – or the child is left to starve and die, while other siblings (who are healthier) are raised up.  In a way, the notion of “the survival of the fittest” is lived out in places where AIDS is destroying the land.  Like Uganda.

An example of this is seen in this picture: a little 12 year old is dying from AIDS, not because she doesn’t have the medicine – she does – but because her grandparents are starving her, waiting for her to die.

AIDS Vaccines cost way too much.

I saw people, who have AIDS, that don’t look like they have AIDS.  I saw people who have been living with AIDS for years, and still have a healthy immune system.  They have drugs now that attack the HIV virus, contain it so the virus doesn’t spread or grow, and allows a person’s immune system to build back up.  People are living longer, even though they have full blown AIDS.  This is amazing!  Parents can live longer.  Kids don’t have to be orphaned.  The tides of this epidemic can turn around.

I have been searching the net for exact numbers – I haven’t found any yet, though – still, I am willing to bet that buying AIDS vaccines in the States is a lot cheaper than when Third-World Countries purchase them.  As I said, I don’t have the exact numbers, but I do know that Uganda pays $500 (that’s about $10,000.00 shillings) per bottle of ARVS, per month, per person.  Yes, the Government pays for this medicine, and they give it out to AIDS organizations, but these organizations have to qualify for it and they are only allotted a certain amount.

My frustration and questions are simple: why?  Why do these vaccines cost so much for impoverished countries?  Why, if we want to rid countries of AIDS, why aren’t this vaccines given out, free of charge to people (countries) that can’t afford to pay?  It seems we are shooting ourselves in the foot: we want to help people with AIDS, so we tell them to buy drugs that they can’t afford, all the while some one is getting rich and living the ‘high-life’.  In a sense, AIDS continues not so much because of sex, but because of money.

Maybe I’m not understanding this correctly; I think I am.  Here are some sites to connect with.  We need to fight for those who are dying of AIDS – all over the world – and make known to those ‘getting rich’: human life is worth more than a dollar (euro, pound, shilling, etc).

Get involved in this fight.  Make your voices known.  AIDS is preventable.  Put the ribbon back on …

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