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My concern, Your concern, Our concern…

I found myself working in the field yesterday offering HIV and STI screening in my local community. These outreach initiatives often  provide reminders of why I do this work, because I run into people who are glad to see people like me offering services in the neighborhood or have questions that I try my best to answer or give resources as to where the answers can be found. Yesterday was no different. Those days I work in the field I also come across one or two people who challenge my thinking and training. Again, yesterday was no different.

He said it’s not his concern. It doesn’t matter, that HIV, in his words, “HIV is rampant in my community. There is nothing I can do about that. My concern is for the children hungry in Somalia whose parents long died from AIDS and left them to fend for themselves.” He said, “… it was like that when I got here and will be that way when I return 300 years from now. Nothing changed when Jesus came back and that was only three days. AIDS will still be here then and they will just be calling it something else.”

To say that my head was spinning to hear this from a 58 year old Black man who has never been tested for HIV and said that “people who  get HIV are ignorant because the literature is out there and they should protect themselves” but doesn’t understand that HIV testing is a part of that protection; is an understatement. His sentiments stung me, because we often talk about the global economy and that the lines of nationalism are blurred with nations’ interdependence on one another. We often speak about being our brothers’ keeper and I was excited to hear him speak of the famine in Somalia and feel as if there was something he could do to alleviate that problem, yet heartbroken at the idea that he felt HIV could not be arrested and it was like pitting one issue against another. Certainly not every person can support every cause or issue. But in the dualities in life we as a human species find ourselves, surely we can see we must treat and embrace the whole person, community not just parts. Because like the nations of the world, all of life’s issues are interdependent on one another and most times you must work on them all in order to achieve the goal of eradication of life’s social ills.

This man so clearly saw poverty as a factor in HIV in a country far from his own. But did not see it as problem in his own community. I guess that is because we don’t talk about the poor here in the U.S. The discussions are largely about the middle class and the wealthy as the poor in their marginalized state are erased from the discourse. My heart breaks for the children in Somalia, who at 7 months, can weigh just the same as a newborn and I will try to end hunger there and make every attempt to hold the UN accountable to their stated goals of ending poverty in the world. But I will also try to end that same hunger here in the U.S. as millions of American children are now being counted in the ranks of the poor, hungry, and homeless…all factors that can lead to higher risks of HIV acquisition just based on where those who are poor live because of higher concentrated cases of HIV in their communities.  Which equals plenty of opportunity to know and partner with someone with the virus. Or I can simply ask two questions: What would you do in order to survive? Do you think HIV factors into that equation when it comes to survival?

He said that is was not his concern, but it is mine and I hope it is yours too.

Tiffany Dominique


(To view more posts from Tiffany, go to “Voices From Our Allies“)

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