Thursday, February 02, 2006

AIDS

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.

8 comments:

Scully said...

Wow, what an experience, SJ. I've been thinking a lot about mercy and justice and choice and compassion. I think a lot of people are too extreme in choosing either mercy or justice. And they use God or religion to justify whatever stance they take. What they don't understand is that it is the balance between mercy and justice that is important. Yes, these people made choices that brought them to have these life-long consequences, but like you said, we can't leave them to deal with the consequences on their own. That is where mercy and compassion come in. No matter what they did or did not do, they are still human beings and children of God. I think we have a duty to as fellow human beings and children of God to ease others' suffering, not just those we deem "deserving."

mj said...

i heard about this on marketplace too. apparently a lot of people in the country have the problem of not being able to pay for their medication, especially in the rural south. i agree with your and scully's sentiment here and our president even mentioned expansion of health coverage for AIDS. i probably err on the side of mercy, however. i do believe people should take some responsibility for their actions WHEN THEY CAN, but i also think that when we condemn them we are putting ourselves in the place of the ultimate judge and that is not where we belong. none of us really wants justice for ourselves.

Scully said...

I'm sure you have already covered this, but I thought the news coming out of BYU and Vanderbilt about early tests of CSA-54 actually killing HIV/AIDS was intriguing. And hopeful. Can you imagine all the lives that would be changed?

Esperanza said...

We have been talking a lot about special education/needs funding in my classes and there is hardly any funds for that...how is the government supposed to come up with the money to support everyone's needs? And the tough job they have to decide who needs the money more, AIDS people, Downs people, unemployed people ect.,ect.,ect.,ect.,

Scully said...

Maybe, if the current administration hadn't committed to both tax cuts and spending trillions upon trillions to a war/nation building project elsewhere, we might have money for social programs. We might have also avoided an exponentially increasing deficit. You know, Eisenhower's 'Military-Industrial Complex' speech is looking downright prophetic these days.

SJ said...

Amen Scully. And even with all that spending the US Army can't seem to afford the proper body armor for soldiers in combat. Just where is all that money going to anyway...could it be Haliburton?

Scully said...

Or Jack Abramoff's bank account by way of Haliburton. I'm sure a fair amount of it also landed in the Saudi royal family's coffers. Is it bad that just thinking about the current administration makes my blood pressure rise? Thank goodness for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. They at least make me laugh about it.

mj said...

it is so darn depressing to actually watch the fed. government wasting money due to pure ineptness nearly every day.