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Encouraging Tolerance

United States, November 30, 2007

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  <span class="field-credit">
    courtesy of Alexii L.  </span>
    Alexii leads HIV/AIDS awareness efforts and activities at her high school. Photo: courtesy of Alexii L.

I can honestly say that I was the first one of my friends to learn what AIDS meant.

By the time I entered kindergarten, I could tell you that it stood for acquired immune deficiency syndrome and that it was contracted from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The reason I knew all this was because I was lucky enough for my mother to educate me. I always remember her sporting her red ribbon and writing checks to the "Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS" organization.

I was curious as to why she cared so much; she simply told me that she had lost several friends to the disease. I thought about losing my friends to a disease simply because there was no cure, and it left a permanent desire within me to help those who were suffering from it.

Unfortunately, I do not possess a "science mind" that would help me in search for a cure, but I can say I have a passionate heart for the cause. Although I am only in high school, I am proud to say that one day I will find a way to help in this march towards the cure. The things my classmates and I do to promote awareness now are only the beginning.

Like most high schools, mine is filled with students who still think that AIDS is something spread as easily as mono. Last year for World AIDS Day, my school took part in an activity called "sticker the school" in an attempt to show the kids just how prevalent and dangerous the disease truly is. Several students visited all the first period classrooms and put a sticker on every sixth student in the room. At an assembly later that day, we had all those students stand up to show just how many people worldwide are infected with the virus daily.

The biggest problem amongst students when it comes to AIDS awareness is the lack of tolerance. Unfortunately, there are numerous students who believe that one can only get HIV if he or she is homosexual. Students who do not believe in homosexuality often make fun of the disease and those who contract it.

Little do they know that the virus is more prevalent amongst heterosexuals and can even be passed from an expectant mother to her unborn child. They neglect to think of the 6,000 children that are orphaned by AIDS daily and never even dream about living day to day in fear of their parents dying. They neglect to appreciate the fact that they do not need to take several breaks each day for antiretroviral drug treatments. Worst of all, they neglect to care about those who do.

Our school's Global Awareness and Peace Promotion club took part in the National Day of Silence last year to try to stop this intolerance amongst teenagers. Despite mocking by some insensible classmates, we did spread our message effectively and are proud to educate our peers on the issue.

Although education is highly important, the number one goal should be to spread tolerance. Despite what people think about homosexuals, heterosexuals or drug addicts, every person on this earth should be respected. I understand that there are people who are not as passionate about the cause as my mother and I are, but they should be aware of its dangers and how it is spread.

The idea that some people are looked down upon for having the disease is deeply disturbing to me. It is that lack of respect — that lack of tolerance — that truly halts the ability to find a cure for a disease that affects everyone worldwide.

To learn more about Mercy Corps' Global Citizen Corps, please click here.