HIV/AIDS: A Woman's Perspective

(Editor's Note: The 20th commemoration of World AIDS Day was held this week; events and discussions continue to resonate afterward. This piece of political fiction was written by Kit-Bacon Gressitt for one of her friends, as she says, "many moons ago.")

Kit-Bacon Gressitt

My daughter is dying.

"Oh, oh, how terribly sad for you!" You are shocked. You clutch your heart; remind yourself your child is well and carefree.

But it’s more than sad. My daughter is dying a slow and frightful death.

"Oh, dear," you comfort, "that is so tragic." And you thank your god it’s not your child.

But it’s worse than tragic, even worse than that. You see, my daughter, so young, so beautiful, she’s slowly dying before my eyes.

"Oh, there is nothing more painful than a parent losing a child," you repeat from somewhere. But you don’t really understand.

You see, my daughter is in her prime and vibrant and mostly healthy. Only she’s HIV positive and her friends have run away from her and she’s afraid and I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the slow, persistent drop and rise of CD4 cell counts. I’m afraid of the treatments. I’m afraid of the day my insurer says they will fund no more treatments. I’m afraid no one will ever touch my daughter with love. I’m afraid of my daughter's death. I’m afraid of her fear.

"Oh, oh," you step back, your "oh" sounding this time more like dread, and you wish I would talk about something else. You want to run away with my daughter’s friends.

Only I won't let you, because I want you to understand. I need you to understand my daughter is dying and she’s not alone: Many daughters in the world are HIV positive, and my daughter is one of them, and I need you to understand, to understand this is my daughter, my precious daughter who is slowly dying.

But you don’t rush to comfort her, to sit with her in her anguish, to hold her closely while she sobs, because you don't understand how women get HIV. So you think cruel things about my daughter and you wonder how you might react were she yours, but you don’t know and it couldn’t happen and she’s not yours.

So you say you need to be going. But I won't let you, because I really want you to understand. I want you to understand there’s hope, there’s treatment, there is life! We can wrap my daughter in love and rock the fear away — hers and mine and yours.

But still my daughter is HIV positive and still you are afraid of her, although you shouldn't be, and you want to flee the horror of disease.

But I want you to understand. I want you to understand my daughter is not a monster; she is not a vile recipient of a vengeful god’s wrath; she is not an abomination. She is my daughter, and you are killing her, slowly, frightfully, with your rejection, your fear.

So you must understand, you must, because if you don’t, if you refuse to understand, she could be your daughter.

(Note: My friend’s daughter lives today with her health and her husband.)

HIV/AIDS Facts and Links

Worldwide, about 50 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are women.

In the United States in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, about 25 percent of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS were women.

(Editor's Note: This piece is cross-posted from Kit-Bacon Gressitt's personal blog, Excuse Me, I'm Writing.)

(Photo by SibleyHunter of Wellington, New Zealand via Flickr, using a Creative Common license.)

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