BY KATIE OLSEN
My name is Katie. I was born in 1985 directly amid the HIV/AIDS pandemic and scare. As I grew older my parents told me stories of complications my mother endured while in labor with me. To make a long story short she lost a lot of blood and I remember my parents retelling to me at a young age how my father gathered family, friends, and co-workers to donate blood so they could ensure her a safe transfusion. Throughout my youth, while attending school, my classmates and I would learn about AIDS and HIV transmission and the quick and powerful affect it had on the world. For me, and I imagine for many children of my generation and upbringing, there was little to worry about. We were young, educated but also sheltered, and therefore, undeniably ‘safe’ from a disease transmitted mainly through sexual contact and IV drug needle sharing (as at least was explained to us). Fortunately, I have emerged into my mid-twenties HIV free, my mother received transfusions free of the HIV virus and neither of us has known what it is like to lose someone to HIV/AIDS. Although my emotions were with those affected by the virus I never took action to help the cause. It would be nearly a decade later that opportunity to join the fight against AIDS would knock at my door.
I became involved with Until There’s A Cure simply by chance and although I do not have a personal experience with this virus I have come to know it from a new and different perspective. My experience with UTAC has put me in contact with various individuals affected by the HIV virus, whether it is with the disease itself or knowing people who have suffered. These blog contributions will be the story of my involvement with Until There’s A Cure, as someone who wants to help continue raising awareness about the illness, as someone with a desire to give voice to the organization’s story, and as someone who wants to learn more about a virus that continues to inflict an estimated 33.4 million people worldwide.
Although I feel I have been thoroughly educated about AIDS I shamefully admit that until I began working with Until There’s A Cure I had let its power and significance as a virus escape me. Until I began reading the stories of individuals living with HIV and researching the statistics of the virus I had figured it was a mere waiting game until a cure surfaced. It wasn’t until I took the opportunity to work alongside UTAC that I realized how many people continue to become infected with HIV, how much still needs to be accomplished in the quest for an AIDS cure, and how anyone regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation or upbringing is still at risk for contracting the disease. Until there’s a cure it is my hope to remind people across the globe of the significance of the pandemic and get people involved, again.