Does HIV Hurt?
November 9, 2010
At this year’s Kids For Kids Family Carnival in New York, there were two special guests in attendance to teach kids and adults alike about the realities of growing up with HIV: Jake Glaser, Elizabeth Glaser’s twenty-six-year-old son, and Kami, an HIV-positive Muppet character from Takalani Sesame, the South African version of Sesame Street.
Jake Glaser and Kami take questions from kids in the
audience at the 17th annual Kids for Kids Family Carnival
After sharing their perspectives and experiences about losing loved ones and finding hope for the future, they asked if there were any questions from the crowd.
One young girl stood up and asked this basic but very important question: “Does HIV hurt?”
Both Kami and Jake assured her that it didn’t hurt, because they have the medications they need to manage their HIV. But Jake also echoed the experience of many young adults who have been HIV-positive since birth.
They often face a number of complex health and social issues, as this weekend’s New York Times cover story
Sometimes the medications have side effects that do hurt. Sometimes they stop working. And we still don’t know the long term health effects of taking antiretroviral drugs for a lifetime, starting at birth.
Sometimes the hurt is not physical but emotional, from the stigma that still exists around the disease.
Jake (top left), and Kami with Foundation Ambassadors
Lucas (bottom middle) and Lee (bottom left) Courtney
As Jake explained to the crowd, that’s why it’s necessary to continue HIV drug research targeted specifically toward children and young adults. And that’s why it’s important to educate everyone about HIV and AIDS, to get rid of ignorance and discrimination.
It’s clear that with the right support and medications, children with HIV can grow into happy and healthy adults. The Foundation has a number of young ambassadors
who are living proof of this. They are the next generation of HIV leaders and activists.
The issues they face are not going away anytime soon. While there are now fewer than 200 children infected with HIV in the U.S. each year, there are millions of children who are still being infected in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions of the world.
Until we end all new infections in children – which is within our grasp – we still have a lot of work to do for those children growing up with HIV.
Thanks Jake and Kami, for teaching all of us this important lesson.
Robert Yule is the Foundation’s Media Manager, based in Washington, D.C.