Today is World AIDS Day. We pause to remember the effect that this pandemic has had on our world. We recall that in the early days of the pandemic, when gay men were disproportionately affected by the syndrome, that the stigmas of homosexuality and illness for so long hampered so many from responding effectively. We note that today the stigmas of poverty and race also hamper appropriate and effective responses to the newer populations that AIDS affects.
In a HuffingtonPost.com essay, Constance Mudenda, a Catholic woman, heartbreakingly offers two prayers for today:
“World AIDS Day is deeply emotional for me. In Lusaka, Zambia, people gather at the Cathedral of the Child Jesus for a candlelight service to remember loved ones killed by AIDS. I go to light candles and pray for my three children who died in the nineties, when a diagnosis of HIV here was a death sentence. One after the other I lost all of my children; first my son Chabala, then my daughters, Lubona and Namuya. All of us here looked on helplessly as our children, parents and friends were killed because medicine that was saving the lives of people with HIV in the West was too expensive to get to us. When antiretroviral medication (ARVs)finally arrived through the work of organizations like the Global Fund and PEPFAR, it was too late for my family. My eldest daughter would have been 19 this year if she had been able to hold on.
“The only reason I’m alive now is because 10 years ago, the world decided to do something about this pandemic which has by now killed 30 million of us. For 8 years I’ve been taking 2 little pills a day which have turned my illness from a death sentence into a chronic but manageable disease. I always say I’m married to my medication — until death do us part. I’ve been more faithful to these pills than to anything else in my life. . . .
“This World AIDS Day I will have two prayers — that, by 2015 no mother ever has to pass this deadly virus on to her baby again and that Lubona [her new infant daughter] will live in an AIDS free world.”
We join our prayers with those of Constance.
Last year on this day, Bondings 2.0 reported on the announcement of a competition to design New York City’s AIDS memorial, the site of which is a park across the street from the now defunct St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village. A Catholic hospital, St. Vincent’s was the primary caregiver for the city’s HIV/AIDS population in the early days of the epidemic when other care givers turned people away.
This past week, the New York City the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Parks Department both unanimously approved a design for the memorial. Approval from the Department of City Planning, the last hurdle, is expected by the end of the month. You can view plans the memorial’s design here.
May this time of remembrance and consciousness-raising empower us to continue to work to care for the sick and to work for eradication.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry.