I did not quite expect myself to react in the way that I did as I was covering a story on AIDS medication funding up at the State Capitol yesterday. The people we(me and one of our reporters) interviewed were so open, so candid about having AIDS or HIV, and how they got the disease. I was not fully prepared for anyone to actually tell me, on tape, that they had AIDS, or why.
I felt guilty for immediately thinking, "don't cut yourself on anything, or bleed whatever you do, you don't want to get what they have". It was as if AIDS was emanating from out of their skin and if I touched them I would get it. I knew logically this wasn't true and that I was being ridiculous.
A part of me really felt for them, and another wanted to be more objective. I knew AIDS funding wasn't a high priority for our State, and wouldn't be a big issue at the legislative level here. There really aren't that many people with AIDS in Utah. Trust me, I checked to see if there was some underground, unspoken AIDS growth here. There isn't. Thankfully.
I also didn't know how expensive it was for these people to survive. This man I interviewed was shaking and carried a cane, his skin sallow and his eyes sunken. He looked malnourished and tired and gaunt. Like a shell of a man he could have been. He told me how he'd had a good job, a good life, but his reckless use of drugs led him to where he was today, and now he could hardly afford the one drug that could save his life. $800 to $1000 a month-the price a patient must pay, not to cure the disease, but to stop the virus from regenerating. Think about it, who can afford that? And if the disease gets to the point where they can no longer work then they won't have insurance to help them either. He's been hospitalized twelve times and will most likely live the way he does for the rest of his days on Earth. He could no longer hold a job and was on social assistance and in government housing. It would be easy for someone, for me, to say that he made the bad choices he did and now must suffer the consequences. But it feels heartless. Everyone makes mistakes, some bigger than others, but the person he really hurt the most is himself, and the punishment is already big. I don't know if they'll get the funding they need to afford their medication, but this experience definitely taught me and opened my eyes a bit.