Rock the Red Pump…Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Since I’d probably critically injure myself if I wore red pumps towork, I’ve been wearing them on my blog for the past I don’t know how many days, and I will wear red tomorrow… Still, with this being National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS awareness day, I thought I would share my first personal brush with the
disease:

I can’t say I didn’t know it wasn’t a real problem. I’d heard the stats, I’d read the stories about women in the magazines who’d come forward with their stories, and I’d even seen a few TV specials about it. Still, it wasn’t real to me in the same way that my every day life was real to me. Sure, there were people with HIV/AIDS, but I didn’t know any. One phone call on a sunny August day changed all of that for
me.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was outside taking a leisurely stroll, enjoying the sunshine, not thinking about anything in particular. When my phone rang I looked at the name on the screen, ready to push the F*ck you button if the caller was one who would destroy my tranquil mood.  A dear friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken to in a few days was on the other end. I picked up the call.

There was no way I could have prepared for the conversation I was about to have.

We exchanged pleasantries, and then she began to tell me a story. She’d worked at HIV/AIDS awareness booth asking people to find out their status and decided to take a test.  Since she was pretty good about making sure to keep up on her own status, she thought nothing of it when she took a mouth swab test. Until, that is, she got a phone call about the results. According to the nurse who’d called her, she’d
tested positive.

All of a sudden, all those facts and figures became very real to me. They began to spin around in my head as I began to digest what my friend had just told me. Dumbfounded, I asked her to repeat herself.
“I have AIDS”.

The peace I’d had to that point was irrevocably shattered. Problem solver that I am, I began to ask her the details. Have you scheduled an appointment with your doctor to get a confirmation of that result? Do you have any idea who gave it to you? Have you told your parents? Have you told your family?

As she told me the progress she’d made (she did tell her parents, she had not clue who she got it from but she hadn’t started making phone calls to tell people to get tested as yet because she was still in shock) AIDS became very real to me. I thought about the countless women who’d died from the disease and I wondered if she’d be in that number. I was touched that she’d chosen to share this with me and astonished that she could keep herself together long enough to do so at the same time. I couldn’t imagine being on her end of the conversation as I could barely participate being on the receiving end.

That conversation changed my life.
Ultimately, it turned out that the test was a false positive. Still, I had thoughts of how much her life would have changed if it had turned out she did have the disease.  I didn’t want to think about the ostracism she might have faced at the hands of people who’d said they loved her. I thought it spoke volumes about the strength of our friendship that she didn’t count me in that number.

I have had my own fateful day on the “wrong” side of clock, waiting for the results of my test. It was both ridiculously frightening and terrifically empowering to find out my status.

I encourage all of my readers to be safe. K-I-D-S isn’t the only four letter word changing the lives of women and girls around the world.

You can find out more about the red pump project at http://www.theredpumpproject.com