Sunday , 5 April 2015
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[GUEST POST] In the fight against HIV and AIDS, Compassion is Vital


This past summer, in a small village outside of Phnom Penh, not far from the Mekong River, I met an 8-year-old boy named Basil. He couldn’t stop laughing, playing, racing around the village like any boy his age.


Visiting him meant something special to me because my father had met Basil too, in 2005. At the time, Basil was a tubercular baby ravaged by AIDS and abandoned by his family, with little hope for survival. Back then, infants who had gotten the disease from their mothers were 25% of the cases in Cambodia.
Now, with the widespread availability of first-line antiretroviral drugs in Cambodia, more than 80% of people living with HIV and AIDS receive treatment. The country is poised to effectively eliminate new HIV infections by 2020, partly because the government has prioritized the fight.
Meeting Basil reminded me of another boy with AIDS, one I never had the chance to meet. His name was Ryan White.
Elton John‘s book, “Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss and the End of AIDS,” newly released in paperback, opens with Ryan White’s story. The moral of Ryan and Basil’s stories are the same, but the endings are tragically different.
Ryan was infected with AIDS through a treatment for his hemophilia and driven out of school after school by ignorance, prejudice and fear. John reached out to White and his family. A friendship formed and White’s struggles inspired the creation of the Elton John AIDS Foundation 21 years ago.
What binds Basil to Ryan across continents and generations is something all too human: stigma, even against a child.
This is a disturbing theme that rings out of “Love Is the Cure”: the blunt recognition that the fight against AIDS, even today, remains a fight against indifference. The communities experiencing an increase in HIV prevalence are those on the margins of society, the people too often ignored: people who are poor, people of color, victims of trafficking, drug users, victims of abuse — groups that society, almost anywhere in the world — too often would rather look away from. The shame, as John recognizes poignantly, is not in being, it is in those who look away.
Indifference is a theme echoed in the book’s new foreword, authored by the international public health expert Dr. Paul Farmer. Farmer tells another remarkable story, this time in Rwanda, where in 1994, after a mass genocide, the nation’s health infrastructure was in tatters and thousands lived in disease-ridden refugee camps. Rwanda, he writes, had to fund hospitals and medicine, yes. But the real breakthrough came because the government faced down prejudice.
“Rwanda’s rebirth,” Farmer writes, “has come to pass most of all … because some of Rwanda’s leaders, including its health minister, have joined civil society groups to fight discrimination with legal remedies, with activism, and with an effort to realize the right to care.”
Shame, prejudice, homophobia and sexism all fuel the stigma of AIDS in developing and developed countries alike. As John describes his own reckoning with the new faces of the global AIDS pandemic through travels for his foundation, he makes it clear that these matters are both personal and political.
Yes, the politics of election years — but equally the politics of communities, of neighborhoods, of families. John’s journey is often about the frequent casualties of stigma — access to information (a crucial ingredient in prevention) and access to treatment, often for those who need it most. The stories in John’s book are crucial reminders that policy, progress and real change often depend on people initially overcoming indifference and confronting a challenge. And then doing the right thing.
All of which brings me back to Cambodia. In Cambodia, change has come through a seemingly obvious shift in policy: The country normalized HIV, focusing on the people with the disease, not the disease itself. One way this manifested was through treating HIV-positive pregnant women as pregnant women, not as separate, stigmatized patients. The country faced down its crisis of indifference. As a result of that and other interventions, Cambodia has seen tremendous progress in combating HIV and AIDS and eliminating mother-to-child transmission.
Change is hard. “Love Is the Cure” recognizes that. As John has said in poetry and prose, compassion is the key — for individuals, and for our global community. His book provides examples of incredible compassion — matched by economics and politics — that collectively are helping to change the trend lines of the AIDS epidemic. John could have provided a theme song but decided to do so much more: to reach out to Ryan White, to help Basil’s story have a different ending than the one that seemed inevitable when he was a baby — and to help truly end the AIDS epidemic for children and marginalized people everywhere.
This piece was written by Chelsea Clinton for LA Times

21 comments

  1. <br /><br /><br /><br />Hello let me share this testimony to the world to hear about him too this man really exit I was HIV positive over 9year I have being in medication and I try to look for cure to my problem and I go through internet doctor and I found a tradition doctor named Dr.Ehoho contacted him for help he give me all his laws and rule that if I get cured I should write about him and

  2. I want to share a testimony; my names are sandra I’m from Tsentralnaya Ulitsa in Russia. i was diagnose of HIV/AIDS in 2010, when i slept with a man in an hotel, along Ulitsa street. i wept throughout the day when i was told i was HIV positive i wanted to commit suicide because i was upset. i was taking some anti-HIV drugs to keep me stable of not dieing, i saw several testimonies that people

  3. I am Mrs JEANNIE.I don&#39;t no how to tell the word the greatest thing<br />that happen in my life.I was so sick that i lose all the money<br />I have in so many hospital still yet there was no solutions on<br />till I go for blood test for different hospital almost five<br />doctor told me I am H.I.V positive. &amp; after then all hope I<br />have was lost I was waiting the lord will called me.

  4. I do not believe it until I receive the healing too, I’m from France I want to share a testimony on how Dr. abiola cured my HIV disease, I was having the HIV disease, base on the testimonies I saw on the net I decided to contact him and told him my problems, he required some items in which he will use in preparing the cure for me, I sent him the items money, he bought the items and prepared the

  5. I am indeed very happy for my life; I never thought that I will live on earth before the year runs out. I have been suffering from a deadly disease (HIV) for the past 2 years now; I had spent a lot of money going from one places to another, from churches to churches, hospitals have been my every day residence. Constant checks up have been my hobby but until this faithful day, I was searching

  6. good day let me share a little testimony about a man that help me cure my HIV I was HIV positive for 13year and I’m from united kingdom the only man that help me cure my disease is Dr Healing this man take me as his son and take care of me I complain everything about me what my family take me for and how people hate me he promise to help me cure this virus luckily to me he keep his promise this

  7. I am Mrs MEG.I don’t no how to tell the word the greatest thing<br />that happen in my life.I was so sick that i lose all the money<br />I have in so many hospital still yet there was no solutions on<br />till I go for blood test for different hospital almost five<br />doctor told me I am H.I.V positive. &amp; after then all hope I<br />have was lost I was waiting the lord will called me. One

  8. Thanks to DR MAXI OWOLABI<br />Hello let me give this testimony to the public about a great man who help me out in serious illness. I had HIV AID for good 5 years and I was almost going to the end of my life due to the way my skin look like all I have in my mind is let me just give up because life was not interested to me any longer but I just pray for God every day to accept my soul whenever I’m

  9. Am Kingsley, my wife was suffering from hiv and the doctor told me that there was nothing that he could do to save my beloved wife. Then a friend told me about the herbal medicine that can cure HIV, i told him that my wife’s HIV was in the last stage that i don’t think the Herbal medicine would cure it and he persuaded me to try it, for the love of my wife, i decided to give it a try.I did some

  10. Am Kingsley, my wife was suffering from hiv and the doctor told me that there was nothing that he could do to save my beloved wife. Then a friend told me about the herbal medicine that can cure HIV, i told him that my wife’s HIV was in the last stage that i don’t think the Herbal medicine would cure it and he persuaded me to try it, for the love of my wife, i decided to give it a try.I did some

  11. Hello let me share this testimony to the world to hear about him too this man really exit I was HIV positive over 9year I have being in medication and I try to look for cure to my problem and I go through internet doctor and I found a tradition doctor named DR.Olamiye I contacted him for help he give me all his laws and rule that if I get cured I should write about him and that is what am doing

  12. I am very delighted to share this experience with my loved ones. I was told the dangers of indulging in uncontrollable sex with multiple sexual partners, at first i was sceptical of such dangers because, i have a serious desire to have sex. As time progresses, i began to develop into other harmful and detrimental habits such as, heavy drinking, smoking, and stealing. My family subordinates

  13. Goodday<br /> My name is Kate Morrison from united states, i am here to thank DR OVIA the powerful spell caster that rescue me from HIV AIDS. I was diagnosed of this disease in the year 2012, and because of this, i was very unhappy with my life, and i went into research on how i can get cured, i contacted alot of spell casters and none of them could help me rather thay scammed me and took away

  14. I want to say hello to the world at large, I am very grateful for the good deeds DR. OKORUNDO did for me, I was a HIV patient, everything went bad for me, I couldn’t do things with my friends anymore, I loosed my job, I loosed everything, I was even waiting for death itself, I went searching on the internet I saw many testimonies on how different spell casters helped people in curing their

  15. DR Ativie is the only Dr who could ever get my HIV-AIDS cured with his healing spell, i have tried almost everything but i could’nt find any solution on my disease, despite all these happening to me, i always spend alot to buy a HIV drugs from hospital and taking some several medications but no relieve, until one day i was just browsing on the internet when i come accross a great post of !

  16. am Mrs Gregory from USA, i am really happy that i and my wife are cured of HIV with the herbal medicine of Dr Ohehe, i have been suffering from this disease for the past 3 years without solution until i came across the email of this doctors who have cure so many people with his herbal medicine, i also chose to give him a chance to help me and my wife, he told me what to do and i kindly did it,

  17. my names are Chris Jennifer and am from the united state of America, am here to share a little story of my past and how i got my healing and family back again. on 11th June 2013 i felt so ill and so my husband took me to our family hospital and the medical doctor carried out a text on me and the result came out to my surprise i was HIV-AIDS positive,i felt so bad and lost all my hopes of living

  18. my names are Chris Jennifer and am from the united state of America, am here to share a little story of my past and how i got my healing and family back again. on 11th June 2013 i felt so ill and so my husband took me to our family hospital and the medical doctor carried out a text on me and the result came out to my surprise i was HIV-AIDS positive,i felt so bad and lost all my hopes of living

  19. <br /><br /><br /><br />My Name is Emil.I will love to share my testimony to all the people in the forum cos i never thought i will have my girlfriend back and she means so much to me..The girl i want to get marry to left me 4 weeks to our wedding for another man..,When i called her she never picked my calls,She deleted me on her facebook and she changed her facebook status from married to Single

  20. i am here so the world will know there is still a real spell caster whose interest is seeing people happy and spiritually free from any oppression from the wicked. I will leave his email address so you can contact him and explain you ordeal to him. Meet him on his email address at odumaspiratualtemplehouse@gmail.com You can also contact him by phone his number is +2347055413648

  21. Truthfully, i was tested HIV + positive last 3years. I keep on managing the drugs i usually purchase from the health care agency to keep me healthy and strenghtful, i tried all i can too make this disease leave me alone, but unfortunately, it keep on eating up my life, this is what i caused myself, for allowing my fiance have sex with me insecurely without protection, although i never knew he is

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