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I Have AIDS

World Aids

I…have…AIDS.  There are no words to describe the coldness that permeates through your body when you hear those words.  How do you catch your breath?  Why is the room suddenly spinning as you try not to scream at the top of your lungs “NO!”?

“Did I hear him correctly!?” I asked myself as my mind tried to process this horrifying information.  It was the day my life tilted sideways forever.

HIV/AIDS is not an individual disease.  It affects the patient, their families, and communities.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 50,000 people are newly infected with HIV/AIDS per year.  Of that, 1 in 8 are positive and are unaware of it. If that isn’t alarming enough, 1 in 4 new infections are aged 13-24.  Roughly 44% of all infections occurred in the Black community.  Among Black, White, and Hispanics, females made up the majority of new infections (source: CDC and AIDS.gov).

Unfortunately, it is still viewed as ‘the gay man’s disease’ when it should be seen as a human race epidemic.  It is this kind of apathy that allows AIDS to run rampant throughout our communities—especially the Black community.  Atlanta currently has a population of about 54% Black and new cases of HIV are actually diagnosed as full-blown AIDS by the time they are tested.  Blacks make up 12-13% of the entire US population. The facts are undeniable.

My new reality was fraught with shock, depression, anger, medication, and prayer.  I had to educate myself with words such as ‘adherence’, ‘viral load’, and ‘cd4 count’.  Knowledge about HIV/AIDS was so limited in the 80s and 90s and the stigma behind it was absolutely horrifying.  Parents were putting their children out, gay bashing was on the rise, and the world was in a state of panic.

After I got off the phone with my oldest brother, I cried.  My brother—my right arm, my hero and protector—had just told me “Kim, I have AIDS”.  I had to pull myself together and go tell my father and the rest of my family. Once they learned about his disease it then became their disease too.  They had to deal with the pain and terror of possibly losing a loved one to AIDS.  We all had AIDS.

My brother kept his diagnosis from us for years because he’d seen his friends suffer the fall-out from their loved ones.  He feared we would turn our backs on him as well.  While we were unaware, Butch (Henry) continued to work until he was too weak and had to go on disability.  His friends and boss nursed him when he was sick.  I’ll never forget how his boss cried when he finally told us.  She had been begging him and reassuring him that based on how he’d described his family in the past, she knew we wouldn’t let him down. I was just glad he had her guidance (he was like a son to her).  I immediately moved him into my apartment.  As he walked through the door, I hid the shock of seeing this young man—who used to be muscularly built like a bull and equally as strong—weighing less than 100 pounds.  As soon as I got him settled into his room, I went into the bathroom and cried.

The only way to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS is to come to the realization that if your loved one has it, then you have it too.  It is not a ‘disease for one’.  March of 1993 wasn’t just a shock, it was a death sentence that continues to reverberate through our family on every birthday, holiday, new birth, or life experience.  There is no room for the continued stigma and ignorance that prevents people from being tested until it’s too late.

Stopping the spread of HIV is possible but extremely difficult.  It is currently on the rise in China (of all places), Africa, and various parts of the world after experiencing a decline in the early 2000s.  The apathy experienced toward the disease is fueled by unprotected sex and an attitude that “it can’t happen to me”.  Again, our youth ages 13-24 continue to be the leading numbers of new HIV diagnosis.  Please don’t be the next diagnosis:

  • PLEASE GET TESTED
  • Wear Protection and practice safe sex
  • Practice celibacy until marriage
  • Stay monogamous
  • If you have it, keep your appointments and don’t skip medications
  • If you have it, come out of the “closet”, go into schools and share your experience
  • Understand that oral sex IS sex (reverse the Clinton factor)
  • RELEASE THE STIGMA—love without judgement

The stigma of AIDS is dangerous.  Actor Charlie Sheen is a prime example of how dangerous staying silent can be.  He was black-mailed for millions of dollars to keep his diagnosis silent.  He continued to have unprotected sex.  This scenario should not occur in our society.  Patients are being shamed unto death in our closest circles.  They turn to drugs, alcohol, and other reckless behavior to run from their new reality. This is where we test our mettle as human beings who have compassion, empathy, and support. Without it, the disease continues to spread. They need a soft place to land.

New HIV medications and cocktails are not only preventing AIDS-related illnesses but are also enabling patients to experience zero detection in their blood (viral load).  HIV is no longer a certain death sentence as it was in the 80s and 90s. Good news for sure but the fight isn’t over until there’s a cure. It is still a very serious illness—ask someone who has to take those medications and they’ll tell you there are still terrible side effects. They still get sick and are hospitalized. It is still an uphill battle and one which we should avoid.

The day my oldest brother uttered those four words was the day it became my diagnosis.  After convincing him to move in with me, I (along with my family) took care of him.  I was angry with him for not telling me sooner.  The year prior, we’d just lost a childhood friend (Norman) to the disease.  He died—alone—in California and to this day my heart aches when I think of him because he felt that was the only option open to him.  I was determined that my brother knew how much we loved him and were unafraid of “catching AIDS”.  He wasn’t a stigma to me—he was my everything.

Just three months after moving in with me, Henry Ruffin Rosemon III lost his battle with AIDS on August 2, 1993 at age 31 on a beautiful afternoon as my father, youngest sister Denise, and I sat by his bed.  As we reminisced about his childhood exploits I, with my head on his leg, felt his life dissipate like a flutter in the wind. I raised my head and knew he was gone. It was a terrible moment for my father because no parent should ever have to watch a child suffer and die the way he did.  From that moment, it became a disease I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

It is my hope that writing his story on World AIDS Day will inspire others to not take their health and relationships for granted. Don’t be so naïve to think that your life has no effect on those who love you.  I implore you: Get tested, Be safe, and Stop the Spread of HIV/AIDS.

 

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Get Out of The Rut: The Character Resume

Resume_Of_Your_Character

Sometimes we go through life in a rut and don’t even realize we are in it.  One day, we become aware that something isn’t quite right but yet, we can’t seem to put a finger on why. Not realizing that there is a “second” resume on the table– one of character and integrity.  This particular resume erodes the trust and respect of friends and loved ones and undermines our potential for success.  It’s the measure of who we are as human beings as it relates to how we treat others and respect ourselves.. What it is not  is the typical life errors and mistakes that make us perfectly imperfect and human. Sadly,we live day-to-day without knowing this is the self-destructive road on which we travel. Sometimes we need to actually read this resume in order for it to resonate.

But there is good news. There is a way out.  First, we have to accept personal responsibility for our actions and become determined to make a change.  But before that can happen, truth and self awareness must come into play.  It is time to rewrite the “life resume” we have so unwittingly crafted.  Different from an employment resume, this life resume encompasses behaviors and irrational beliefs that hinder personal maturity and growth. Second, once we have acknowledged the existence of this resume, we begin to seek ways to repair the damage. It’s not easy but then nothing worthy of gaining comes “easy”.  If your “life resume” remotely resembles this, then it is time to self reflect.

Character Lacking

1120 Integrity Way

Distrust, IL 90321

Objective:  To enhance current skills while increasing sense of entitlement.  Willing to not take responsibility for my actions, blame others for my problems, and avoid all opportunities to have a viable and successful future, while manipulating those who love me and are willing to give me a free ride.  Forever tethered to people who have no concern for my life, I have no intention of making changes that will set me on a self-sufficient path.  Seeking those who will elevate my current lifestyle, cosign the negativity in my life, all while stroking my ego and helping me to get nowhere in life.

2013  Child Support Evasion, Location Irrelevant

Charismatic and charming

Multiple “people creation” skills current count: unknown

Avoidance expert

Party enhancement supplies

Anger management expert

Female/male abuse expert

2010  Possession of stolen items, Location Irrelevant

Spent 8 years ‘abroad’ and learned new techniques

Excellent detection avoidance systems and analysis skills

Adapts to unexpected situations such as drop and flee

Experience in resale retail

1999  Gun possession by felon, Location Irrelevant

Expert at weapons concealment

Weapons purchase and resale

Can fire at multiple targets with 10% accuracy

1998   Drug possession with intent to sell, Location Irrelevant

Promoted to sales

Customer service oriented—delivered day and night

Top seller in crew (er, distribution department)

Excellent officer detection skills

1996  Burglary, Location Irrelevant

Lock expert

Keen sight – look out expert

Escapes detection with ease

Salesman of the month

1995  Drug possession, Location Irrelevant

Carried drugs upon person in order to get high

Well versed in lighting and inhaling, snorting, and needle work

Alcohol extraction expert

EDUCATION

         Unimportant

HOBBIES

          Running (er, jogging)

Skills

Weapons, stealth, Facebook and Instagram, fashion, feigning innocence, alcohol inducement, People making, partying, finger work (“throwing those signs”), and manipulation

References

          …?  Holla back?

Public Shaming and the Suicide of a Child

Isabel Laxamana

Once again public shaming has reared its ugly head- this time with disastrous results.  The latest victim is 13-year-old Izabel Laxamana – a student at a Tacoma Washington middle school .

We seem to forget what it was like to be a child. I wasn’t a bad child but I did challenge my parents and was punished accordingly. As with most kids it ebbs and flows until the time comes when both parent and child “survive” this thing called parenthood.  I also had insecurities that are normal to most children.  13-year-olds (boys and girls) deal with issues such as weight, acne, clothing styles, the opposite sex, and yes- hair. They are entering the age of discovery and self-awareness.

So is it really a shock that a young beautiful girl with long thick flowing locks – in the beginning of discovering herself- would become devastated and suicidal after not only losing her hair, but having the event put in public display?

It truly begs the questions -why are parents so eager and willing to humiliate their children? Why has this become a new “tool” in parenting?  What are they trying to prove and to whom are they attempting to prove it to? How is this helping the child to correct behavior and more importantly, is the possible psychological and self-esteem damage worth the risk?

Apparently for Izabel Laxamana, the risk was far greater than the reward. Because we now live in an advanced technological society, her parents felt the best way to punish her was to chop off her hair and post it online.

This isn’t “punishment”- its cruelty.  It’s a form of cruelty that not every child can handle and I’m willing to guess that most children can’t handle it.  That is why this young girl -in the beginnings of her youth and self-discovery- climbed onto a bridge and without hesitation, jumped to her death.

There is no doubt that as her parents mourn her death, the “likes” and kudos are up ticking on YouTube and Facebook as yet another progressive salute to a great punishment strategy. So now I’m compelled to ask again, do you still think public humiliation/shaming is a good way to punish a child?  If you still feel this way, then shame on you.

Not Popular, But Sincere…

Silenced

I believe that there exists a misguided assumption that I think myself to be without struggle or blemish.  That can’t be further from the truth. My life is a painting of heartache, physical and emotional pain/abuse, financial struggle, and much MUCH more.  My past is a labyrinth of bad choices, wrong turns, half-truths, and regrets.  It is also filled with beating impossible odds, last minute triumphs, learning of self, loving of self, and speaking truth. I’ve learned from all of it and I’m still learning.  This is why I do what I do…

We each have a calling on our lives to do something meaning, fulfilling, and spectacular.  We achieve this in a variety of ways: giving service- volunteering time, money, resources, writing, speaking, arts, etc.  Some of these avenues require personal transparency and some do not.  I chose the route of transparency because this is the uncomfortable path that I feel can help someone.

It’s important to understand that I don’t write for the understanding of ‘scholars’, politicians, or other types of pundits.  I write for people who are searching for answers or who are searching for people who can somehow relate to their situation.  I write for people who don’t have time, patience, or even the ability to sift through extravagant prose to find understanding of a simple concept.  That is not assuming that anyone is ‘ignorant’.  There are many levels of education and understanding- that is a fact.  What I simply mean is that “less is more” for the particular impact I seek to make at this moment in time.

Amazingly, we have so much technology available to us that we are forgetting how to think in a most basic way.  Just go out for a drive and witness how much worse drivers are now than just 10 years ago. Cell phones and computers think for us, process requests quickly, and require nothing more than for us to tap a few keys.  We’re chained to technology and so are our children.  There’s a huge disconnect. There needs to be a return to the basics of thinking coherently.   Our children are dying, being neglected or otherwise abused and so much of it is avoidable.  Those are the conversations we really should be having. We have to figure out how to bring the “village” back to our neighborhoods.

My voice is not going to always be popular but it will be sincere.  My words are not going to be judgmental but they won’t always be “politically correct” either.  How can anyone grow when they have to measure what they say for fear of offending?  Our lives have impact on others and if we can just understand that, then maybe, just maybe we can somehow enjoy a better existence in this world. Maybe we can learn to respect and help one another.  I can choose to stay silent, pretend that life is great, and puppies are cute. Or, I can be courageous and press forward and hope that someone even braver than I will share these nuggets with whomever they know it will help.   If that means it helps or impacts one person, then that is a good day.  If you feel that what is shared on my blog or The Bolder Sister will help someone, please share.  If you would like offer sincere feedback or suggestions for content or topics, by all means please send an email to krr.2000@yahoo.com.

The Ripples of Loss…

 

Every life touches a life.  That statement could not be truer than now for the people Alexander Villafane touched.  He was a Humboldt Park youth football coach and resident of Little Village when he was shot in the head in front of his son just outside his home.  Not only did the 39-year-old husband and father leave behind 2 sons and 2 daughters, he also left behind the children he coached and mentored.

For all the lives Mr. Villafane touched, there were many more to come.  Children who needed a stable male presence in the most critical stage — ages 10-13– will now be left to navigate life without him.  One bullet silenced a man who sacrificed his time and energy to keep kids off the streets and give them something positive and meaningful to look forward to.  Just one bullet.

The ripple effect of a life snatched away cuts deep into the heart of our communities.  The loss of this man reverberates from Humboldt Park, IL where he grew up and coached the Patriots, to Little Village where he lived, and throughout Chicago.  As we wrestle with the senselessness of his death, we have to also discover what it will take to staunch the bloodshed that is to come.

Our communities are only as strong as the people who reside in them.  Cameras can be installed and multitudes of police can be deployed but until we decide to stop covering for murderers, these tragedies will only continue to flow.  Alexander Villafane is gone. We can only pray that the 10 to 13-year-old boys he left behind will not stray from the love that he instilled in them.  We can only pray that whoever knows the person who did this will come forward.  Maybe then the ripples of loss will become the waves of change.

(c) 2015 Kim R Woods – all rights reserved

**video:  Homicide Watch Chicago homicides.suntimes.com