For our World AIDS Day 2011 section, we wanted to capture the diversity of the HIV community. So, we reached out to people across the world -- regular contributors and those who have never written for us before -- and asked them to guest blog. These columns are written by people who are living with HIV, have been affected by HIV, or work in the field.
Just the other day my daughter and I were playing with a number puzzle and using our fingers to correlate with the numerals. I skipped over zero as we counted, but she confidently picked up the number and declared it an oval.
Hmm. How do I convey what "zero" is? I tried making my hand into a zero -- but that was really meaningless. I tried saying something like "less than 1" but that of course got a blank stare. Finally, I grabbed her favorite animals, ponies, and asked how many there were.
"Two," she beamed as she happily took them from my hands.
"Hey, I don't have any more ponies," I pouted. "My hands are empty. That is zero." She got it. I didn't have any ponies to play with. Zero.
Sure, we adults can understand mathematically what "zero" means. But I wonder if we can truly understand what it would mean if there were "zero" cases of HIV; "zero" people afflicted with AIDS. What the world would be like if there were no babies born positive. If there were no graves dug, no child orphaned. Not even one.
Given the fact that this epidemic has covered the entire span of my memory, I know that I personally cannot imagine a world without HIV. I cannot even begin to envision the pain and suffering that would be no more. The grief that would be averted. The lives and futures that would be intact. No -- I see through a glass darkly.
But I do hope.
I hope that every child has the same chance as my daughter to be born free from HIV, regardless of location in the world, income, or social standing. We know how to make the chance of a child obtaining HIV from her mother very nearly zero.
I hope that those in the medical community continue working for a medical cure or prevention for HIV. Without this, we will never reach zero.
And every day I do my small part to help stop the spread of this disease. Take my medications. Participate in medical trials as I can. Encourage other infected people. Speak, write, pray, and love the children entrusted to me.
Zero. Not even one. Hands empty. Futures full. Zero.
Sarah Sacco is an HIV/AIDS advocate who was diagnosed with HIV at age 23. She lives in Colorado Springs, Co., with her husband and young daughter, Abbi.
Read more of What's Normal Anyway?, Sarah's blog with her husband, Carmen Anthony Sacco, on TheBody.com.