World AIDS Day: First-Person Experiences from HIV/AIDS Caregivers

Yahoo Contributor Network
A red ribbon hangs from the Puerta de Alcala to commemorate World Aids Day, Wednesday, Dec 1, 2010.(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

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A red ribbon hangs from the Puerta de Alcala to commemorate World Aids Day, Wednesday, Dec 1, 2010.

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. Writers from Yahoo! Contributor Network who have cared for HIV/AIDS patients shared their thoughts about the disease, its victims and the continuing struggles against the pandemic. Below are some excerpts from their submissions.

R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen grew up with her friend Susie while Susie grew up with AIDS:

"In my time in health care, I met quite a few HIV and AIDS patients. I met them at their sickest and did what I could for them. They would all leave and go home and I never saw most of them again. I sometimes think about them and wonder how they are doing. I don't really think about them more around World AIDS Day -- or other notable anniversaries. Sometimes I will see or hear something and it just makes me think of them. But I think about Susie every day. It's been nearly seven years, but we were friends for 20 years. She was a year older than me and was like the big sister I never had."

Read Kitchen's story here: Susie's Story: Battling HIV/AIDS as a Child and Young Adult

Susan Abe remembers "Mr. B," an elderly AIDS patient in her care:

"Mr. B -- himself a courtly, old-fashioned and kindly person -- had a wonderful family situation to be discharged to: a stay-at-home retired nursing assistant daughter supplemented by a granddaughter and a grandson in nursing school. Family dynamics appeared warm and stable. The oddity that set Mr. B apart from other patients on our cardiac step-down unit was his age, 93.

"Oh, and he was HIV-positive."

Read Abe's story here: Recalling the Courtly 'Mr. B'

Emery English's own health struggles led her to a job caring for AIDS patients, most notably a couple guys named Joe and Gene:

"[Joe and Gene] came to personify AIDS patients for me. The hoopla over contagion and religious values aside, I saw two men for whom the struggle to beat this lethal disease dominated their lives. And yet at the same time, they did not collapse under the weight of their burden nor did they give up on the everyday joy of life."

Read English's story here: Caring for HIV and AIDS Patients a True Privilege

Julie Wimmer writes that whenever she thinks of AIDS, she thinks of "Jan," a patient she cared for:

"I had never met a woman who had AIDS. I knew that anyone could get AIDS: a baby, a mom, a sports player, but most of the time when I heard, 'So and so has AIDS,' 90 percent of the time, they were talking about a man. So when I met 'Jan,' I was almost weirdly fascinated by her condition."

Read Wimmer's story here: Whenever I Hear About AIDS, I Think of Jan

Angela Epps tells the story of her estranged uncle, who, upon rejoining the family, had important lessons to share:

"We need to remind my uncle to take his drug 'cocktail' every day. He was emotionally damaged. It took months of love and constant assurance that he was a worthwhile part of our family and the world to get him to stop shaking and saying 'sorry' after every little thing."

Read Epps' story here: AIDS a Disease that Can Kill Love

Sherri Hunter recalls James, an AIDS patient she bonded with during his medical treatments:

"James was a real diamond in the rough, and I might have overlooked him in another set of circumstances. As his strength waned, our visits (as I came to see them) became less chatty. I had an opportunity to do little things for him to help him be more comfortable. Sometimes I just sat with him. Eventually, the day came he didn't come in for his appointment. We found the obituary in the paper. Many tears were shed that day."

Read Hunter's story here: AIDS Patient Teaches Life's Lessons

Lyn Vaccaro writes that caring for an AIDS patient helped her appreciate the attitude regarding the disease today:

"I was affected in such a profound way by Ed's illness, mostly by the unconditional love his mother and family gave him as he slowly died. This occurred in the 1980s when HIV wasn't as accepted as it now is. That was difficult for me."

Read Vaccaro's story here: Remembering Ed as AIDS Turns 30

Also see: Timeline of AIDS/HIV in America and AIDS and HIV by the Numbers

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