I have young daughters – ages 6 and 8. So, I no longer have the luxury of simply brushing by them with my red ribbon and saying, “It’s World AIDS Day. This year the theme is Universal Access and Human Rights.” – and then waltzing away as though a conversation has been had. Nope. I now have to be able to “esplain and ascribe” (which is 6-year old for explain and describe), in plain English what World AIDS Day is (not to mention what Universal Access and Human Rights are) and why we care. Whoa.
For those of you who do not have regular conversations with little people, I would encourage you to find one or two to talk to (loaners are often available from friends or family especially in the evening hours for about as long as it takes to go to dinner or a movie). The exercise of communicating effectively (or effectively enough) to a child is eye-opening to say the least, and at times, mind-blowing. I practically have to go into semantics training in anticipation of this day each year. But I have finally figured out that children just help you figure out what you know and what you believe – at the purest level.
Here’s a brief snippet of a conversation with my then 5-year old just before World AIDS Day last year:
Me - “Tomorrow is December 1st. World AIDS Day.”
Her - “Whirled aide day?”
Me - “No, World AIDS Day. Remember, AIDS is a disease caused by a bug called HIV?”
Her - “Does the world have AIDS?”
Me - “No – well, yes, sort of – but no, people have AIDS, or sometimes just HIV.”
Her - “Don’t you have HIV, Mommy?”
Me - “Yes.”
Her - “You STILL have it?”
Me - “Yes.”
Her - “Do I have it?”
Me - “No.”
Her - “Will I get it when I get to be a dolt?” (her word for adult…and no, the irony is not lost on me.)
Me – “No, we will teach you how to protect yourself so you don’t get it.”
This conversation goes on for about another 6 pages, but you get the idea. So, this year I have written the following script:
“Good Morning, Girls. Today is World AIDS Day. This is a special day we have set aside to think about HIV and AIDS, to talk to each other about HIV, and to find ways to help each other work towards a world without AIDS, so that when you grow up, you won’t have to worry about HIV and AIDS anymore. Each year we give World AIDS Day a theme to help us focus on an important part of the fight against AIDS – sort of like the name of a chapter in one of your chapter books. This year is a big chapter! The theme is Universal Access and Human Rights. These are big words that really mean that all people – men, women, and children – in this world deserve to live healthy, safe lives. So, we have to work hard to make sure that all people who need treatment and care can get it, and that no person is ever treated badly because of who they are, or how they look, or who they love, or what they believe, or even what disease they have.”
And then I’m going to ask them how they want to help and be a part of wiping out AIDS and all those other bad behaviors. This should work for a 6 and an 8 year old. In fact, it just might work for some 46 year olds I know too…
Now is the time. World AIDS Day is a great day to step up to the plate and decide to make a difference. Everyone can. You can. We have some grieving to do. And we have some celebrating to do. Most importantly, we have some work to do. Mahatma Gandhi put it simply so the whole world could understand…Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Together we can put AIDS behind us.