Monday, December 2, 2013

Reflections on World AIDS Day

By Londell Jackson

Yesterday was World AIDS Day 2013. Yesterday was also the first day of Advent.  As such, I sit and reflect upon what that means for me.  When I think about World AIDS day, I stop to reflect upon HIV and AIDS and how this virus has affected my life.  While note a regularly practicing Catholic -- I don’t go to church often -- Advent is one of the many celebrations of the Church I bring into our home.  Advent is a season of preparation, specifically for the birth of Jesus.  Moreover, Advent is a season of reconciliation, forgiveness, and self-renewal; very similar to the Lenten season.

I have lived with HIV for just over 13 years.  I am among those fortunate enough to state my seroconversion has not affected my life in any large scale. For the majority of my infection I did take any sorts of meds simply because my body was keeping the virus in check.  That was until 2006 when I was diagnosed with Poly Arteritis Nodosa (PAN), an autoimmune disease of the vascular system.  It seemed that while my immune system was dealing with the HIV, it got a little overzealous and decided to attack the blood vessels in my legs, ankles, and feet.  While my T-Cell and viral load counts were normal, the only treatment to bring this affliction into remission was to start an antiretroviral.  I won’t share with you any stories of dealing with multi-pill dosages, or horrific side effects, simply because I had neither.  By the time I started treatment, it consisted of one pill, once per day.  Besides waking up groggy and some bizarre dreams at times, my life continued uninterrupted and the PAN went into remission.  Over the years, I have developed resistance to two drugs, and am now on my third.  Still no side effects (knock on wood).

My HIV does not dictate my life as it has millions of others.  Much of that is due to my middle class standing.  Nope, I’m not wealthy by any means, but I have always had health insurance, specifically prescription coverage.  If it wasn’t for insurance, I would have been dead a long time ago (well, that is a hyperbolic assumption) simply because I could have never afforded the medication, which costs $2,300 per month.  That’s $23,600 per year for those who would like to know.  Now I understand HIV infections are on the rise for several populations in our country.  I have assumptions as to the reasons for this, but regardless of what they might be, look at the basic economic reason to take precautions around potential infection.  Enough said about that.

As a believer in Christ, and as a follower of his teachings and wishes, I honor the season of Advent in anticipation of the birth of Jesus, the Christ child.  What does this mean in layperson’s terms: I am cleaning up the house before the guest arrives.  I’m looking back at the commitments I’ve made to myself over the years, commitments I’ve made privately between myself and my god about how I can be a better community member, a better spouse, and a better individual for myself.  

What does better mean, well, that’s a book for another day, but in this particular case, living a healthier life, a life that will make my remaining years enjoyable, and how can I encourage others to do similarly.

I acknowledge I have slacked in the areas of self care and preservation as of late.  I’ve packed on all the weight I had lost, I’m not taking artist’s dates as needed and promised, and I am not tending to my spiritual needs.  These things have once been very important to me and in my life, but lately they have seemed to wane as I slowly turn into a couch meatloaf.  So, it is time again to commit myself to becoming a healthier me.  While science has developed medicines to help sustain my life, and while my choices with and without spiritual direction have led me to where I am today, I can do better.  I can do better not just for me, but for my family as well.  I can also look to identify additional ways I can encourage others in my communities to make similar commitments for themselves, however possible.

This Advent, this World AIDS Day, I recommit myself to good health and to positive stewardship.  I honor the blessings in my life, and in doing so I commit to give my family a healthier me, and I live my life as a small example for others.  It’s the least I can do to say thank you and honor all those who have gone before me, and to ensure their lives were not taken in vain.