I have been tagged by Laura to list 7 random things about me...but since my 100th post is coming up soon...I am going to list 7 things about me and the life of HIV. But first a photo of Yabsera Rock climbing in the Rockies...
My 7 things.....
1) I accompanied my friend for an HIV test in 1990. That was my first time coming that close to this disease. He tested negative, but tested positive about 8 years later and is now living with HIV.
2) I held my first baby who was HIV exposed in the fall of 1990. She was drooling on my shoulder and I wondered if I could get HIV from being drooled on. I had taken a job caring for kids with HIV and yet I had no idea what that meant or how you got the disease. There was no internet to do research. That night I found out that you do not get HIV from being drooled on. That baby ended up being uninfected. Her birthmother has long since passed away.
3) I first fell in love with children that were not my own in the fall of 1990. 3 of them had HIV and two of them did not. I loved these kids like they were my own and it was the first time I really knew that I would probably one day adopt a child.
4) I watched my first child with HIV die in the spring of 1991. I held her at night and we sang and rocked. She was in a great deal of pain. I blogged about here here.
5) I said my first goodbyes to the children I had really grown to love and cherish in the summer of 1991. My first of many heartbreaks over saying goodbye to a child. One of the children with HIV died a few years ago at age 18, and the other child who is now in her 20's is still alive and doing well. The two uninfected children are also all grown up and doing well.
6) I met my first "Buddy" with HIV in the fall of 1992. Her name was Veronica and she was 21 and the mother of two girls. Neither girl was HIV infected. I spent 4 years getting to know this young woman. We were almost the same age, both from Upstate New York, both children of the 70's and teenagers of the 80's...we had a lot in common. She died in the spring of 1996 of complications related to HIV disease. I made her a quilt piece that is now part of the AIDS Quilt.
7) I started caring for families with HIV, as a medical professional, in 1996 when the new HIV Drug Cocktail, including Protease Inhibitors, came out. This is the magic year when the new drugs were available that would change the face of HIV in the Western World. If Veronica had lived a few more months, she might be alive today and if Tina was born in 1996 she not only would be alive today- she would probably not have been born with HIV at all. No other disease, in the history of diseases, has made this type of progress this quickly. Six years was the difference for Tina and Veronica, and its also the difference for all of those kids in Ethiopia who have a chance to access these life saving medications. Many of these kids are even being adopted here in the US and other countries. Not long ago international adoption of an HIV+ child was only rarely possible. Now I have gotten about 4 emails in the last month from families who are interested in adopting an HIV+ child.
And finally- Maren- falls asleep on the wood floor at my feet. I suppose even our wood floor is more comfortable than some of the places this kid slept while in Ethiopia.