Poems and Stories

Poems and stories can be powerful tools in conveying the reality of HIV and in addressing stigma.

If you would like to share your work with others, please send it to Lyn.

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He Died of ‘a Long Illness’. 6/5/12

"Stigma killed you as much as the long illness did."

6 May 2012

He died after a long illness. He will be ­remembered as an activist, a seasoned and experienced politician. He wasn’t perfect, said his party, but then none of us is.

What did he die of? A long illness.

Here lies ­another young lion. He redefined radicalism and was a keen strategist. His life is still the ­prototype for a new generation of young political activists. He also died after a long illness.

What did he die of? A long illness.

Here lies yet another young lion. He defined effective communication and helped to craft the image of one of the world’s greatest leaders. He was kind and sharp, and gone too soon.

What did he die of? A long illness.

Here lies a wonderful trade union leader, snapped away from one of the country’s best worker organisations at the tender age of 30-something.

He died just as the vicissitudes of globalisation began to hit our shores and without him, the workers floundered, directionless for some years. What did he die of? A long illness.

This long illness of ours, taking our best and our brightest, turning their brains to mush, filling the graveyards too soon.

This long illness of ours, leaving a million orphans stranded in the harsh and barren world that is theirs when there is no mum and no dad.

This long illness of ours that has meant grannies are turned back into mothers, bringing up grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

This long illness that is beatable with amazing drugs that can turn it from deadly to chronic.

But first you have to say its name to know its danger; you have to acknowledge its course through the veins and into the body.

First, we have to accept that it is, often but not always, the outcome of choice, the choice of our imperfections, of fallibility. To say its name is to take away its power.

Rest in peace, Sir, you with the name we dare not say in the same breath as the name of the ­illness whose name none of us speak even after 20 deadly years. Stigma killed you as much as the long illness did.

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Our Story of Hope

As told by Zoleka Sauli, MASANGANE community worker in Jabulani village and initiator of Yomelela children´s centre.

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The Personal Side of AIDS. 10/5/12

A remarkable guest post from Christopher Sale, a Catholic religious brother from California, diagnosed with AIDS four years ago.

Positive Lite

Editor's note: It’s odd that PositiveLIte.com has never really featured a religious perspective of living with HIV in our pages before. But Brother Christopher Sale (below, right) happened to write to us and we were immediately interested in the prospect of him sharing his rather unusual story.

Christopher told me this about himself. “In 2008 I nearly died from AIDS and drug use. By the grace of God I'm still here. I'm now a Catholic religious brother. I'm the first openly gay man with AIDS to ever start a religious order in the history of the church. My journey with AIDS and being a Catholic brother has really changed my life. My first blog was Gutter to Grace. You can read it here. I'm 61. Went to Catholic schools. Taught 8th grade religion until I was bullied out by the students for being gay. I came out when I was 20 and went into a 25 year relationship. And as you can see I'm a totally changed person. I'm the founder of the Brother of Padre Pio and I'm trying to start the Padre Pio Help Center for those dealing with HIV and AIDS. I'm also involved with the homeless and poor. The church made my calling very difficult because of being my gay and having AIDS. But I broke down every barricade they put up.”

The following article by Christopher first appeared in The South Pasadena Patch


Throughout my many months of blogging, I have not talked about the personal side of having AIDS. AIDS is my never ending battle of survival.

I am an extremely private person but I feel called to tell you about my 4 year journey of living with AIDS. The highs and the lows.

Three weeks before April 29, 2008 I was told that I was HIV-positive. Needless to say, the initial shock was overwhelming. I remember being in a state of confusion.

My first reaction was to deny the seriousness of my diagnosis. "OK," I said to myself. "Many gay men have HIV. In fact many of the men I know have been HIV-positive for years and seem to be doing just fine."

Two days later, I was sent to a clinic for a blood test. I didn't want to go for that second test. I talked myself out of the importance of the test. My roommate could see that my nerves were on edge and convinced me that I needed to go through with the blood test. He kept his promise and went with me.

I'll never forget that day.

I sat in a waiting room where HIV and AIDS pamphlets were on every table. Red ribbons adorned the walls. Reality was setting in. Other men in the waiting room were there for the same reason. I played mind games with myself trying to determine which was the sickest patient.

Trying to visualize my future brought tears in my eyes. I threatened to leave. My roommate consoled me. I took the test and was told to come back on April 29.

The blood test would reveal my T-cell count and would determine my condition. This caused me more anxiety. I was very ignorant about HIV and AIDS. It had been my understanding that HIV and AIDS are one and the same. I lacked education about it.

On April 29, 2008 I went back to get my results. The nurse's compassionate demeanor told me that my condition was serious. She told me my T-cells were 140 and asked me if I knew what that meant. As I told her. "No." She said, "It means you have full-blown AIDS."

The shock protected me from a full break down. She comforted me and told me of the options available with different medications. She said, "AIDS is no longer a death sentence." "No," I thought. "But it sure helps to numb reality."

She told me that my addiction to drugs was going to cut my life short. I had to stop using. How would I battle AIDS and drug use? Then she told me that I was anemic. My world was collapsing.

Depression took over. I got in bed and didn't say another word for days. I felt everything was useless, and I didn't care about anything.

Out of that silence came the realization that using drugs was the least of my worries. I used drugs to escape my reality. Flashbacks flooded my mind of men who died horrific deaths from AIDS. Not wanting to die a horrible death, I tried to overdose on drugs.

Another patient at the clinic asked what my T-cells count was. When I told him, his response was, "Oh you're terminal." Another uninformed person sentencing me to death. I later realized that we are all sentenced to death when we are born.

Those remarks only added to my depression, shame and self-loathing. I had done this to myself. My days were numbered, but they were numbered from birth. I indulged my morbidity and shopped for funeral arrangements, looked into getting a will, being buried or cremated, inquired to the suffering that I would experience and wondered how many exact days that I had left.

I wondered who would ever want to love me, hug me, touch me or cherish me again? Would I tell people upfront that I had AIDS or would I wait? Would this news be received as the plaque?

My roommate encouraged me to fight but despite his support, I felt utterly alone. The days of my life were numbered. I counted each day as precious and then these remaining days of my life were replaced with a deep vacant, emptiness of dying alone.

The mirror showed me that I was slowly wasting away. I became afraid to look at myself. A once well-built, healthy man allowed himself to self-destruct. I never dreamed that I would find myself with AIDS.

After a fall, I ended up at the local emergency room with a torn ligament and cuts on my face. I told the nurse I had AIDS and asked her to clean up the blood and put a bandage on me. She refused and handed me the bandage to put on myself. Not one person in the emergency would touch me.

I was at rock bottom. I went to bed and stayed there for a few months.

The day I got out of bed, I lethargically looked out my front window and became aware that life was passing me by. It was a vibrantly beautiful day, and everything seemed colorful and alive—people out walking their dogs, birds chirped in rhythm and the sun danced on the leaves of trees.

I realized that life wasn't quitting on me, I was quitting on life. A thought flowed through my head, "Time to man up and fight for my life."

I was determined to fight, new found energy pulsed through me, and I got in my car and headed for the nearest Catholic church. I began praying at the Church three times a day.

I had days where I felt that God did not give a damn, and I was wasting my time. I begged Our Lady of Guadalupe to intercede. I felt like a child running to his mother for consolation. I asked Her to help me, and I made a promise to Our Lady that I would devote the rest of my life as a religious brother.

Within three months, my T-cells went from 140 to 160. Not a big deal to some, but it was to me. I threw all the drugs away that I was taking to deaden the emotional pain and never had a craving for them again. This was nothing short of a miracle. I knew that no one could predict my death sentence and that my fate was in the hands of God.

My health returned to 95%. The past 4 years I have battled pneumonia and several stomach infections. I fear being in crowds, make sure I eat in clean restaurants and also maintain a clean living environment. Oftentimes, I feel as though I live in a bubble.

I have been miraculously blessed. I know with God in my life that I will be just fine. At 61, I don't foresee a cure in my lifetime. My stay of execution is at the hands of God. For the second time, God has called me to the religious life. My sexuality caused be to deny that first call but I answered His second call. Though I am battling AIDS, my life is entwined with the crucifix, and this is my cross.

Many people say I should be out living it up. They don't understand that I am living it up with God. God is my ultimate party. And everyday he grants me a new gift. The gift of life.

Br. Christopher Sale B.P.P.

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Who Was She? 08/03/09

Meditation for International Women’s Day, 8th March 2009 by Ellen Alexander from Interserve International.

2000 years ago? Just yesterday?

She was tall and beautiful, wore her hair loose, there was a spiritedness in her gait.  The sun was just over its mid-point.  She carried a pot on her shoulder.  It was the time of the day when she could come, without being stared at, whispered about or harassed.

While yet a long distance from her destination she saw a man sitting at the well, with the semblance of a Jewish Rabbi. What was he doing here?

Quickly, her thoughts raced back to the time she had gone with her parents to see the Temple in Jerusalem.  She saw the pompous rabbi standing there, looking severe and authoritative, with his hands lifted high, and saying in a great loud voice, “Lord I thank you that I am not like other men: extortionists, unjust, adulterers or even this tax collector.
And, “thank you that I am not a gentile, dog or a woman!”

Her little heart was crushed in unbelief, and confusion about God. She wondered, are some people actually more acceptable to God than others? Was she rejected or lesser because she was not a Pharisee (right socio-religious status), a Jew (right race/ community), a man (right gender)?
 She tucked away the thought muttering, “may be one day the Messiah would explain it all”.

The journey back home sent her on a different journey altogether. As a child she grew to realize that she would never ever be treated like her brother. He was special; he had more privileges and joys. She turned nine maybe ten; her body was changing, as was her psyche and emotions.  She was confused and no one explained anything to her. Her gloom grew to depression, and she despised herself.  “Perhaps God does love men more.  I am not as good as them! May be men are better? I don’t even like myself!” 

She turned into a young lady, dark eyes and attractive; ‘it was time to get married’, but she wasn’t ready.  She did not want to marry just yet, but it was not for her to decide.  It was her father’s prerogative.

She asked for love and respect, her husband demanded sex and babies.  He used her and discarded her. She would have given anything to be loved and treated with dignity and worth, instead men used and abused all she had to offer and returned shame and guilt in its stead.

Suddenly she was back in the present, at the well at mid-day and her eyes met the gentle eyes of the Rabbi as she looked at his compassionate face. 
He was different. No, unique!

Was this 2000 years ago or just yesterday?

…Even today in all parts of the world
Women are still used and abused not just sexually
But physically,
Emotionally,
Verbally.
They are denied opportunities,
Deprived of making decisions
Dispossessed of their gifts and abilities
And treated as lesser beings.
 
Jesus restored the Samaritan woman to God and her people
He broke barriers, He built bridges
He affirmed her and empowered her
No longer ashamed or deemed inferior
She was able to go back to the village,
Her head held high and a song in her heart.
She was sent with authority and authenticity:
The people listened and responded.
You can be a bridge-
To restore to women their God-given image and worth
Break ancient social, religious, cultural barriers
For, they are made by men, not by God.
Loosen the age old chain of oppression and ‘second class’ status
Unfasten the shackles of violence and abuse
Step aside to make room for women to take their place 
Treat women with respect and dignity
Empower them to use their God given gifts and abilities
To lead, to do or just be Women.

 

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AIDS Awakening

 Read about CABSA friend and co-worker, Toni Zimmerman.

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AIDS Day Poem

PowerPoint presentation of a poem written by CABSA friend and co-worker, Toni Zimmerman.

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Beauty's Story

Beauty talks of her journey with HIV.

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Broken - Communion Prayer

 Life is so easily broken, crucified,
As the victim’s head is spiked by thorns
Driven into them by the poisonous hands of the self-righteous.
 
Life is so easily broken, crucified,
As the victim’s back is lacerated by the scourging of the harsh
Judgements of the pious. 
 
Life is so easily broken, crucified,
as they are nailed to their
Cross of suffering and bitter pain. 
 
Life is so easily broken, crucified,
as the victims are rejected
And mocked by the jeering crowds. 
 
Life is so easily broken, crucified,
As the victims’ hands are pierced by the callous indifference
Of their Christian brothers and sisters. 
 
Life is so easily broken, crucified,
As their burial is a hurried affair so the
Sabbath can be Celebrated and prayers said.
Yet their resurrection and our resurrection will come through
Staying with their brokenness, in fear and expectation of the coming of the
Spirit Who will make all things new.
 
(This powerful poem was drafted at an HIV/Aids workshop in Cape Town in May 2000. While these words were spoken during Holy Communion – a glass was smashed to pieces. Participants came forward, slowly bent down and picked up the pieces of glass before taking the bread and the cup………)
 
Submitted by Renate Cochrane jrc@iafrica.com
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I Have a Dream - Ezra Chitando

Written by Ezra Chitando in Maputo on 8th December 2008, during the 9th General Assembly of the All Africa Council of Churches

I dream of a world
Where men respect women
Where men protect children
Where men promote life
 
I have this vision of another world
A world that exudes the following qualities:
Justice
Peace
Compassion
 
I yearn for a world
Where men are strong enough to care
Tender enough to love
Loving enough to protect
 
I have glimpses of another world
Faithful men
Caring men
Sensitive men
 
Dear God, work with us to bring this world
Dear Men, let us work to bring this world
Dear Women, let us work to bring this world
Dear Men: Are we man enough
To embrace this dream & world?
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In the Distance

by Prudence Mulenga
 
I can see a flicker of light,
In the distance.
Hope for the future is prevailing
Through the capable hands of
home based care.
I call them my parents,
Because they care for me.
Yes, even in distress
One can easily find love and care.
In the distance,
I always hear the soft voice
Of someone who cares and loves me.
Yes, there is always someone to
provide for me,
In the distance.
How do you feel when you part with
Just a little of your time
To feed the mouth of an orphan -
Whose daily expectations
Rest on other people's plans?
Yes, you feel that delight,
That wondrous joy
Often experience by carers
Of home based care.
We don't live with them,
But we sill know
There is someone who cares,
In the distance.
 
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Take Away the Stone, Take Off the Bandages

(Inspired by John 11: 17-44)
Dead in the grave
Smellin' in the cave
Bandages to wrap me
A Stone to cover me.
Death sentence by a killer disease
Positive diagnosis
Negative consequences
Death sentence by chronic dis-ease.
Called out from the depths of my grave
Called out from the depths of my cave
Called out from the depths of my pain
Called out from the depths of my strain
Jesus showed up.
I'm getting up.
Jesus showed out.
I'm getting out.
Jesus shed tears.
I'm overcommin' my fears.
Jesus, Jesus wept and cried.
I'm kept, not denied.
I can live positive.
I can live productive.
I can live constructive.
I can live positive.
Unwrap my guilt.
Loose me for forgiveness.
Unwrap my regret.
Loose me for growth.
Resurrection from my grave.
Reconciliation from the cave.
Restoration is my destination.
Recognition is my ammunition.
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Telling Our Story

We tell of facts and data
Of global trends, of groups, of risks
We recount our travellers' tales
Of issues raised and insights gleaned.
We share our theo-psycho-socio thoughts
Our medico-spiritual-pastoral concerns
We enrich and are taught, find challenge and support.
But what's our story in all of this
What stirs within our inmost space
What of all we've lived this year
Has marked our deepest self?
What has fired our dreams and hopes
What's scarred and pained, what's brought us joy
Why and when have we laughed and cried
Why fought, despaired, yet dared go on?
What is our story
In our most sacred space
In the deep still sanctuary within
Can we dare to name that story
Before the One who's formed us,
Who knows us through and through
Who breathes her Word to Life in us
Even as we sleep?
We speak our stories,
Bring forth Her Word made Life.
We own our journey, reclaim what's gone.
Our retraced paths disclose
Her steps, Leading, forgiving, carrying, guarding.
And in our telling God's voice sings out,
Transforming, blessing and bringing to
Wholeness, all that we dare to name.
Our stammered phrases become
Her Word of Justice, Beauty, Truth, Healing.
God's hymn declares her boundless joy,
Her delight in our words made Word.
She looks with Love on those she's birthed,
And holds us to herself.
As she holds, she restores, renews
And calls us forth afresh
"Come live the story of my Love
Come dance my Dance of Life".

(From the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance)

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The Gift of AIDS. 16/03/2012

Written by David Ross Patient and published with permission.

For many people reading this, trying to find any gift in the AIDS experience may seem difficult, if not impossible. However, in the twenty nine years that I have been part of the HIV reality I have obtained many gifts from this epidemic. I would like to share these gifts with you in the hopes that it will mobilize you into action, or sustain your efforts. Life gives us gifts in strange packages. At first we are often only aware of what we are losing. It is only over time that we can see what we have gained.

THE GIFT OF INTIMACY

I have walked with many frightened souls on their journey through AIDS. Many of these journeys have been right to the gates of death, where they have walked through and I have been left on this side. To be there at the end of this journey for another, assuming their abilities as they lose them, is a humbling experience for the most hardened of people, including myself. To have them choose me as their guide into death, where all facades are dropped and nothing but pure honesty exists between us, is the gift of true intimacy.

It is God in action, totally non-judgemental, and with no need to fix a situation that isn't broken. It is about simply being there for the other person with no need to control the outcome, yet doing everything within my power to ensure their illness and eventual death will be with dignity.

Countless people have entered my life as a direct result of their diagnosis, or mine. The influences we have had on each other outweigh the demands put on our relationship - the pain and suffering, loss of dignity, and often the loss of faculties - as we touched the face of God together. It is through the intimacy of dying that I have learned about vulnerability and opening up my heart to a greater acceptance of myself and others.

THE GIFT OF SURRENDER

Many times during my illness -and those of people I have supported - I have had to simply let go of my need to control the outcome. Considering my high need for control, this was no easy accomplishment. To totally relinquish control for me equated to trusting the process that was unfolding in front of me. It is a behaviour I have had to learn, as it wasn't inherent in my coping styles. I had to learn to just be there for someone who was dying, simply loving and supporting their process without judging it or making it wrong or bad. I had to confront the reality that there is a much bigger plan acting itself out, regardless of my illusion of being able to control what was happening. I had to accept reality as it is, and not the way I feel it could, should or ought to be. For me, surrender became an act of having enough control to let go of my need to control. In time, I learned that there was nothing 'wrong' with the dying person's process. I was simply grateful for the privilege to be there as the Plan moved forward in its mysterious way.

THE GIFT OF COMMUNITY

When AIDS enters a society or group, it shatters relationships with fear and ignorance. However, as the old disappears, a new community arises. Those infected and affected gather together, to form a Chosen Community. They form support networks, caregiver agencies, underground treatment and medication smuggling networks and even meals on wheels. This takes time, but it happens. More importantly, relationships form beyond the fear, beyond the stigma, and are held together by care, respect, and love. Some friends and family remain, many leave. Those that remain do so because they choose to.

In time, this act of sharing begins to create an AIDS community, with people from all walks of life coming together to love and support one another. Suddenly race, language, religious beliefs and sexual orientation fell by the wayside. Relationships are forged across gaps that were once too large to navigate due to limited beliefs and opinions about 'those' people, which soon dissolve into an act of simply supporting one another. The gift of community grows out of a common cause for a need for a compassionate response to AIDS.

As a result, our sense of connectedness is expanded. You discover true relationship, true community, based upon humanity and compassion, not convenience, culture, religion or birth. We have all heard, many times, that we are all connected, and AIDS highlights this, and turns Sunday values into everyday reality and action. I am blessed to know who loves me, no matter where I have been, and what I have done. I have received the Gift of Community.

THE GIFT OF SERVICE

Think of a time you have allowed someone to do something for you, with no expectation of returning the favour. At first it may have felt uncomfortable, or perhaps even unpleasant. However, when you allowed yourself to be supported by someone who was able to be there for you, how wonderful a gift it proved to be.

To give of oneself is God in action. It’s not about money, time or effort. It is about feeling compassion and empathy for your fellow man, regardless of their race, gender, life style, culture, or religion. In service there is no 'Us and Them' - there is only WE.

I am not talking about self-sacrifice or martyrdom. True service comes from knowing that you have enough for yourself and for others. It is knowing that you are blessed with more than enough. It also means taking care of yourself, so that you remain filled with more than enough. You cannot give what you do not have.

Service is not about rescuing people. It is about empowering them, knowing that they may lack resources and skills. However, this does not take away from the fact that they are a child of God, no lesser and no greater than you. All they need is someone to believe in them so that they can see their own personal power, regardless of how long that may take. It often means seeing what they have not yet seen, namely that they have the power to change their lives, despite all evidence to the contrary.

The gift of service merges giving and receiving into one single act of love. Receiving is giving and giving is receiving. The gift of service has opened me to a greater appreciation of our connectedness.

THE GIFT OF WISDOM

Think of something you have learned because of your giving care to another human being. Wisdom is captured in the Serenity Prayer…' Lord, grant me the serenity to accepts the things I cannot change, the change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.'

There is wisdom in knowing when to speak, and when to remain silent. There is profound wisdom in knowing when to touch and hold a hand, and when to allow the other person his or her privacy and aloneness.

Perhaps you have marvelled at the miraculous complexity of the human body? The human body never lies. It tells you what it needs as long as you can detach from your own internal dialogue and remove the judgements keeping you stuck in a specific, and probably limiting, paradigm.

Perhaps it is something about courage and endurance, about love and relationship, about ethics and values? Pause for a moment and think about how AIDS has brought you a wealth of wisdom.

THE GIFT OF PRESENCE

Presence is about being here and now - in this very moment. The Gift of Presence is found in those experiences where the intensity of the moment moved you so deeply that the past and future suddenly faded away and all of you responded, resonated with the power of that moment.

When I am with someone who is dying, there is no future to ponder, and no past which needs to be considered. All that matters is that I am here, right now. There is great power and joy in just being here, right now. I have no need to delay telling the truth, and no need to postpone joy. This is the only moment I may have with this person, and with myself. In this moment, it is good to be alive.

THE GIFT OF MEANING

I have learned to step beyond the surface meanings of culture, religion, political beliefs, differences in beliefs, as a result of AIDS. It does not matter whether we have different beliefs. What matters is that we accept and respect each other.

Many of us, infected or affected came into this reality with many preconceived notions about people, cultures and beliefs, yet AIDS has forced us to confront these limitations and has expanded our acceptance of our fellow man, regardless as to whether we support the same beliefs or values. It has forced me to confront my need for seeking meaning by seeking only what is the same as myself trying to order my world according to categories of who is similar to me, and who is not. I have discovered that these categories have no substance, no meaning. Only compassion means something - we all feel pain and pleasure - we all seek to connect with someone or something - we all want to know that we made a difference - we are not separate.

THE GIFT OF LOVE

When I work directly with people with AIDS, I receive the Gift of Love, sometimes from the most unexpected places and people:;

Some years back I worked with a gay couple, both in the final stages of their lives. The one had been thrown out of the family home some years earlier when he told his parents that he was gay and there had been no contact for many years. In the final weeks leading up to his death, he asked me to inform his parents of his illness. Within six hours of my call to his parents, these two 80 something year old people arrived at the couples home. Over the next weeks there were many tears of sadness as well as joy. Eventually their son died and instead of heading back to their home, these two people stayed with their son's partner, who for all intent and purpose was a total stranger, and nursed him into death over the next four months. They took care of him as if he were their own flesh and blood. He died in their arms, loved and respected for who he was and what he meant to their son.

I have also noticed that this Gift is lost when I forget the individuals behind the statistics and politics. I pray that I never forget that love can only be given and received by people, not from beliefs, knowledge, money or power. I pray that I remember each person, each smile, each tear.

THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE

Few people receive the gifts of intimacy, surrender, community, service, wisdom, presence, meaning and love in their life-times. Most live in numbness and quiet desperation. To care for the seriously ill and dying is to touch the face of God, and to stretch the limits of patience, compassion, and human potential. These are indeed difficult tasks, and the reward is equally large. There is a deep sense gratitude - gratitude for the opportunity to be alive, to feel, to be here, for the opportunity to be stretched to your limits, to reach out and truly touch and love another human being. The dying have so much to teach the living, and the living are enriched in the process. What has the act of care-giving allowed you to be grateful for?

The Gift of GOD

When I first started working in HIV AIDS many years ago, I seriously doubted that any God of Love and Mercy could allow such suffering and human indignity. For years I was very angry at God for not intervening in some way, shape or form. I was angry that My God would let me love someone with all my heart only to take them from me and leave me to pick up the pieces of my life, not once, but twice. It was the death of my first partner that started me on the path to realising that God gives us choice, with no strings attached. I watched my lover die, and reaching out his arms to hold God's love. He was so brave. Touching the face of God made me see that there was nothing 'wrong' with AIDS, human sexuality and even death. It was not a judgement or punishment or retribution for being who we are.

It is simply part of the cycle of life and once I removed my judgements about it, I could accept that I had to 'let go and let God'. In this act, which was not simple by any stretch of the imagination, I found a friendship with God unlike any earth bound relationship I have ever had. It became very clear to me that I could ask my friend God for any kind of help, as long as I was wiling to do my part. It was not like I had been told that if I wanted something, I had to pray for it and then hand it over to God to do something about. For me it became letting God work through me. It became a process of recognising God in everyone. Truly a case of the God in me recognising the God in you.

Knowing, not just believing, that God loves me has given me the strength and will to do Gods work without questioning and constantly asking 'why'? The greatest sin is to deny that that IS. Life without death would be insufferable. Death without life would be unthinkable. How has the gift of God changed your perception of yourself and those around you?

The Gift of AIDS,

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The Stories told by HIV and AIDS

A story of shock at a death sentence newly learned.
A story of shattered dreams and lost opportunities,
Of bewilderment, anger and despair.
A story of fear and secrecy and shame and denial,
In individuals, in families. A story of guilt and blame.
A story of prejudice and discrimination,
Of isolation, rejection and judgement because someone has the virus…
Or maybe just because they're different.
A story of loss of health, security, friends, dignity, family,
Home, future, autonomy.
A story of needs and dependency and nakedness.
A story of lost skills, diverted resources, reversal of gains,
For families, communities and nations.
A story of inequality and injustice between North and South, male and female,
Adult and child, straight and gay, powerful and powerless, positive and negative.
A story of hostility and abuse by Church and State alike,
Of the already voiceless made even more vulnerable by HIV.
A story of healing and liberation preached to the whole Church in the ministry of those with HIV or AIDS.
A story of love and care and commitment poured out without reserve,
And going beyond the boundaries of dogma or law or tradition.
A story of countless grains of wheat…
of unhailed saints who come in many guises;
If we will but see; if we will just listen.
A story of hope for the present, and hope in the future, from those who, infected with the virus, subscribe to life, not death.
A story of courage and solidarity from those who, without concern for self or regard for rank or title, proclaim openly and honestly "the Church, Christ's body, has AIDS".
And, from those who teach and counsel, nurse and support,
From the many who advocate and struggle for justice,
A story of truth and freedom and acceptance and love;
-signs that even in this time of AIDS God's kingdom is among us.
 
From the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance

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