by Carina Bleuer
Published on: Dec 7, 2007
Type: Poetry

Greetings! We have not yet been introduced but I will soon affect every aspect of your life, your friends’ and family’s lives, and the world as you know it. Our relationship may begin through needle exchanges, or through infected sexual partners. I can be passed onto your unborn baby. If you are a woman, we are four times more likely to meet. If you are a sex worker, injecting drug user, man who has sex with men, a prisoner, or a person living in sub-Saharan Africa, you are my prime target.

My goal is to attack slowly and stealthily. At first I will provide you with a typical fever. You will think you have caught a common cold, but you will soon find out that I am significantly more potent. I will make your limbs ache, give you headaches, skin rashes, diarrhoea, and mouth ulcers. Your glands in various parts of your body will become swollen. Your symptoms will last for roughly two weeks. Then I will allow you to live five to eight years without a trace of sickness. But not to worry, I will never abandon you.

During those years I have been breaking down your immune system, leaving you susceptible to serious infections and disease. If you are part of the 20% of people who need treatment and have access to it, you can take numerous pills everyday for the rest of your life.

These pills come with their own side effects. You may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, abdominal pains, insomnia, rash, tiredness, loss of appetite, hypersensitivity, peripheral neuropathy, blood disorders, pancreatis, abnormal, dreams, impaired concentration, depression, psychosis, muscle pain, liver abnormalities, lipodystrophy, hyperbilirubinaemia, lactid acidosis and the list goes on. But keep in mind that it is possible for me to mutate and make these treatments ineffective.

Once I’m inside of you I can be slowed down, but never stopped.

By the time that five to eight years have passed (or decades if you receive treatment), I will have gained full strength, leaving you vulnerable to disease. You will contract a terminal illness: tuberculosis, lymphoma, cervical cancer, anal carcinomas, Hodgkin’s disease, Kaposi’s sarcoma or some other malignancy.

At this point you may think the worst has already been realized, but my capacity to affect and destroy has not yet been spent.

Once you have come to terms with me, it will be time for the people in your life to come to terms with me. This will not be an easy task. I am linked to stigma. In many communities I am associated with lifestyles that are perceived as deviant. This may mean your family may no longer want to have anything to do with you, your friends may gossip about you without your knowledge, you may be rejected by peers, coworkers, or especially your partner.

Some people may be ignorant to the modes of transmission and may fear infection. They will avoid you at all costs. Those who want to help you may not know how. They may feel uncomfortable talking about me, or talking to you altogether. I have the power to ostracize you from society, to make you feel rejected. You are likely to face this discrimination everyday for the rest of your life.

Your employers may reject you and you may find yourself without a job. In this case, if you are the only income earner, you will be unable to support your family. When I finally take your life, your parents will be left without a son or daughter, your siblings without a sister or brother, your children without a mother or father. I can end not only your life but your family, friends, and community’s lives. I have the power to bring everyone down with you.

I can impact every aspect of your life. I can crumble society as you know it. I am capable of killing off the labor force. I destroy human capital. I can cripple the economy. I am a multiple death sentence. I can bring your world to an end. Everywhere you turn I will be waiting.

Everyday I infect 14 000 people. Everyday I am spreading. Since 1981 I have killed 25 million people. Today I am living inside of approximately 40 million people, and I am killing each one. I infect a woman every 16 seconds. I kill a woman every 29 seconds. I am the leading cause of death among adults in Sub-Saharan Africa. I have left 18 million children orphaned and I leave one more orphaned every 14 seconds.

I am Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

AIDS affects everyone!

There is no cure. But I CAN be prevented and I WILL be defeated when the global community rises together to fight me once and for all!

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