My Letter to HIV: A Letter From Julia Mascardo


No pleasantries here. Although you and I are not personally acquainted, it is only a few degrees of separation between me and people who cohabitate with you. As such, I have no desire to be civil with you, because you refuse to be civil with people that I know and care about.

I remember the first day I met someone who shared you in his life. I was at a 4-H convention in Chicago, and the keynote speaker was a very skilled athlete named Arthur Ashe. It was December 1992, less than two months before he passed away. I wasn't a sports fan, and so although I knew his name, I knew next to nothing about this giant of a man standing before me. I do remember that he started his speech with “My name is Arthur Ashe, and I have AIDS.” He explained that he had you come into his life, not because of anything that he did or a bad decision made, but because medical science hadn't caught up to your exploits yet. Although it is too late for him in this lifetime, I am pleased that medical science is catching up with you and will continue to make inroads into your spheres of influence. It is one of the joys in the work I do for one of my day jobs that, in some small way, I'm helping move medical science forward against you.

Over the years, I have met other people who cohabitate with you time and time again. What makes me most angry at you isn't that you cause people I care about to get sick and/or die, because we all suffer illnesses in life and we will all die someday. Like those with cancer or Parkinson's or other conditions that affect those I care about, I provide love and support to the warriors who fight those conditions and do what I can to assist in their fights. What makes me angry is how so many people who have you in their lives feel afraid (and, sadly, sometimes with reason) of mentioning you to their friends or family -- something that people with other medical or life challenges don't have to deal with in most cases.

A person who needs love, and support, and healing should not be afraid that they will be left isolated and alone just because they have you in their lives. HIV, if you aren't leaving this world yet, know that your days are numbered. In the meantime, know that I will do what I can to continue to provide support in whatever way I can to those who are warriors against you, because there is no shame for those living the life of a warrior.

Julia Mascardo