The first ever global health day, World AIDS Day was first held in 1988 to remind people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for those living with HIV, and to commemorate the lives that have been lost to HIV. During our Global Health Corps training Phill Wilson, founder of the Black AIDS Institute, shared an inspiring talk with us that concluded with this poem by his late partner. Although many have joined in the movement against HIV/AIDS, let us not forget that there is still much need to raise awareness, fight stigma, and improve education. Listen to the poem here.
AIDS by Chris Brownlie
It is a whimper and a scream.
It is the brush of a branch on the screen of your window, a rustle, a rattle.
It is being in your center and being so far from your center
That you don’t know if you’ll ever find your way back.
It is relentless. It is daunting, a great mountain which you must climb.
It is sweating, bleeding, puking in ways you never have before.
It is pain you never imagined.
It is fear you never dreamed.
It is grief you never guessed.
It is the frenzy of medicine.
It is too many visits to the outpatient clinic,
The two days in the hospital for tests,
The weeks for the treatments.
It is the doctor’s kindness, the nurse’s caring.
It is the doctor’s prodding, the nurse’s poking.
It is the manic need to make your mark,
To leave some worthwhile trace of yourself behind.
It is shattering denial every time the symptons of another infection begin to mount.
It is the loneliness, like the whistle of a train passing in the dark night of your soul.
It is caring for your friends in ways you never have.
Intimate ways, horrible ways,
Ways that take more of your love than you knew you had.
It is being there when the coma comes.
It is begging in your heart for some little piece of mercy.
It is going to the church, or the park or the beach to say:
“farewell and Godspead, beloved one.”
It is waking up wet, so wet, wetter than you were at birth.
It is having your skull split by its swollen lining.
It is changing your sheets because the stench woke you up.
It is anger, weird quirky anger,
That knocks you off your pins and makes you doubt your own judgements.
It is not knowing the difference between your needs and your desires.
It is being disoriented by the force of the great emotional wind.
Which is constantly blowing within you.
It is the fighting back.
It is the building of places to care for the living and the dying.
It is courage, it is honor, it is integrity.
It is people joining forces in a time of great need.
It is hope, it is sharing the burden.
It is people caring for their own and finding love.
It is surviving and believing in the future
Even when we are hurting more than we have ever hurt before.
Is is bearing the unbeareable,
Enduring the unendurable,
And hoping in the face of hopelessness.
Is is the hunted look in your loved one’s eyes when a new crisis begins.
It is mourning together.
It is holding them in your arms and in your heart.
It is crying because your heart is breaking over leaving them behind.
It is the sweet pain of knowing that you are dying
And the overwhelming sadness of those who will kiss you into their dreams.
It is a wail.
It is a howl.
It is beyond our grasp.
It is awful.
It is awesome.
It is AIDS.