067: I am grateful for red ribbons

Today was, like every December 1st since 1988, World Aids Day. Red ribbons are everywhere reminding everyone to protect themselves from the spread of HIV/AIDS.

I remember when the awareness of AIDS hit during the early 80′s. The gay community was the first in North America to be ravaged by the disease. A lot of ignorant misconceptions and fears arose around that fact. People actually thought that if AIDS awareness were taught in schools, it may “encourage” homosexuality in young people. Ridiculous.

As part of my education a man in his late 30′s with AIDS came to the school to speak with each class about the disease. He told us how he had come out of the closet to his family having already been married with children almost a decade earlier. I don’t remember what he said exactly but I do remember his face. Every year at this time I wonder whether he survived or not.

Not many at that time did.

What is AIDS?

AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency “is a condition caused by a virus called HIV. This virus attacks the immune system, the body’s “security force” that fights off infections. When the immune system breaks down, you lose this protection and can develop many serious, often deadly infections and cancers. These are called ‘opportunistic infections (OIs)‘ because they take advantage of the body’s weakened defenses. You have heard it said that someone ‘died of AIDS.’ This is not entirely accurate, since it is the opportunistic infections that cause death. AIDS is the condition that lets the OIs take hold.” [source]

I have known quite a few people who have lived with HIV for a very long time thanks to healthy diet, lifestyle and a cornucopia of drugs.

That is in North America.

Africans, especially the women and children there, has been particularly hard hit by HIV/AIDS. Carol met a woman and her child when she was in Zimbabwe many years ago. Both have passed away due to AIDS related illness. Watch Carol’s blog for a post in the next few days about this story.

Organizations like RED are doing what they can to help with the problem.

What is RED?

(RED) is a business model created to raise awareness and money for the Global Fund by teaming up with the world’s most iconic brands to produce (PRODUCT) RED branded products. A portion of profits from each (PRODUCT) RED product sold goes directly to the Global Fund to invest in African AIDS programs, with a focus on women and children.

I personally have a family connection to an AIDS story. A cousin of mine, who I never met, from Dad’s side of the family, passed away from “complications due to AIDS” in 1992.

tracy-wilson-and-robert-mccall

His name was Robert (Rob) McCall. He was a figure skater. He and his partner Tracy Wilson (seen in the above photo) were the first Canadian ice dance team to medal at the Olympics winning Bronze at the Calgary Winter Olympic Games in 1988. He and Ms. Wilson received the Order of Canada and were inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.

Thanks red ribbons for reminding me.

Wilson and McCall photo source
World Aids Day graphic source

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