By KEREN LUMBALA
EDMONTON, JUNE 15—Exactly 10 days out from D-Day. In a week and some change, I’ll be trading what I know as a first world resident for rural Kenya.
It was in my second year of university that I learned about HIV/AIDS. I mean, I knew what HIV was before then, don’t get me wrong-I don’t live under a rock, but it was in my second year Immunology class that I REALLY learned about HIV: the virus’ inner workings, the mechanics of how it causes disease, its devastating effects, and most importantly, the fact that no one knows how to put a definitive stop to it. Basically, I learned that the human immunodeficiency virus is a pain in the derriere.
Ask people close to me to describe me and surely adjectives like “contrarian” and “stubborn” will be thrown out, characteristics that I will proudly admit to having. You can imagine, being stubborn and a contrarian, that it triggered me every time I heard no cure had been found for HIV/AIDS. Now, I don’t have any delusions that I will automatically or even certainly succeed where so many researchers have failed. But the fact that others have not yet found a cure should not be an incentive to stop looking and is the exact thing that keeps me from throwing in the towel.
The antiretroviral therapies (ART) that we currently have are great, and by no stretch of the imagination am I calling it a failure in the world of research, but it can’t be denied that it doesn’t meet the goal of a cure. I can’t help but want more of a solution for the massive geographic that is most touched by the virus, people that look like me and that don’t have the resources to access ART: sub-Saharan Africans, whose countries and people are constantly stigmatized for the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
I figured a good way to start would be by putting myself in the middle of it. I won’t start in an HIV lab, nor in a volunteer organization to raise awareness. Those things will certainly come later, but first, I want to see first hand what HIV/AIDS is, to see its true face within rural Kenya, in an HIV clinic. I want it to fuel my fire, then, I want to see the end of the age of HIV.