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Caroline Wheatley

Posted by Anonymous Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A friend of mine, Caroline Wheatley, who I initially met in Hong Kong but actually lived in Kansas City, now works in Swaziland (which borders South Africa) with the Peace Corps. Here is a very impacting excerpt from a recent email she wrote:

I recently have been dealing with my own prejudices about HIV. Helping people with HIV- no problem. talking to people about HIV- talking to people with HIV-no problem. but there was an incident recently that made me realize that I am LIVING with people with HIV. they are not just people i see at the clinic and go home. they are in my home, in my church, in my school. they are in my life. i realized the magnitude of this statement a week ago when this little boy who doesn't live at my homestead, but spends ample time there was wearing shorts. i saw that he has herpes all over his legs and stomach- actually i picked him up because he was screaming and then when i put him down i realized it. herpes in a small child, as i have learned, is an AIDS defining illness. this little boy has AIDS. and for some reason when he was running around the kitchen with the rest of the children and i was playing with them, this made him different, fragile, causious. i would look at him and think, "this is the boy with AIDS. be careful"
as an educator who is trying to help eliminate the staggering stigma related to HIV, i realized that the first place i needed to start and the first person i needed to educate was myself. a humbling, embarrassing, and very important finding. living with people who are HIV positive is a new thing for me. it is shocking. i don't exactly know how to handle it, but i think in time and with the help of my Swazi friends, we will be able to tackle this issue, at home, in our own hearts, and in our community.

This week begins the International AIDS Conference in Toronto--let's hope that progress continues to be made.