In the light of Red Ribbon week, which is dedicated to spreading awareness of HIV/AIDS, Greenwich High School hosted an assembly about the disease. (The name "Red Ribbon" comes from it's symbol of the solidarity of people struggling with society and life because they are HIV positive or have AIDS.)
Before this assembly, I never realized that there are connections to HIV/AIDS patients in this town. The only victims I knew were either famous or written about in books. Dell'Abate, a resident of Old Greenwich, opened my eyes with his personal story of his brother who died in 1991 from AIDS.
His speech taught me to put myself in the shoes of those whose friends or family are suffering from the disease. I realized how hard it was having most people turn their backs on you because those people are in fear. When his brother was first diagnosed with HIV, Mr. Dell'Abate was reading an article about possible cures on a NYC subway. A group of high school girls stepped on and one of them leaned over his shoulder. And after seeing that the headline had a connection to AIDS, she announced very loudly to every single person on that subway, "THAT GUY HAS AIDS!" and shunned him.
Part of this cold shoulder effect comes from the fact that there is this ignorance and lack of knowledge that continues to be shrouded. Dell'Abate stressed the importance of educating this generation. Many young people today, he said, think AIDS is a curable, easily treated disease, or that you can "tell" if someone has HIV/AIDS by looking at them. Not only did he inform myself and the 300 people who attended the assembly that there is no cure for the disease, we also learned that it remains serious and deadly if untreated, and that poor judgment influenced by drugs or alcohol can play a role in its transmission.
Listening to Mr. Dell'Abate reminded me how precious life was and to make the most of it. There are people out there who are dealing with terrible medical inflictions, and I should all be thankful that I'm healthy and able to do things. I will try to spread more awareness of this disease because most youth are un-informed. This leads me to my final note: The Red Ribbon Foundation raises money to fight AIDS through several fundraising events each year. Proceeds of these events are awarded as grants to organizations that demonstrate results and promising ideas for preventing the spread of AIDS. Red Ribbon's grant making priorities are prevention education programs for high-risk individuals, cutting-edge research to eradicate the disease, and assistance programs for those living with HIV/AIDS.
For more information about the Red Ribbon Foundation and how you can help, visit www.redribbonfoundation.org