Today is World AIDS Day.
33.4 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.
97% of people living with HIV/AIDS live in low- and middle-income countries.
67% of people living with HIV/AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Less than 10% of children with HIV/AIDS receive the treatments they need.
15 million children under age 18 have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. 80% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa.
1000 children are infected with HIV every day.
More than 5700 people die from AIDS every day.
That's a lot of numbers. And to be totally honest, I have a hard time understanding the impact of numbers like 33.4 million or even 1000. I just know it's a lot.
So let me put a face to World AIDS Day for you.
Meet Mnqobi (pronounced No-bee).
Isn't he precious?!
He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in July 2004. His mom had AIDS and knew she couldn't take care of him. So she gave him up. She died shortly after.
Not long after he was born, Mnqobi went taken to an orphanage . . . really more of a baby house. It's a special place where babies bond with their caregivers and their caregivers love the babies like they are their own.
I know. I was a caregiver there for a time.
Not long after Mnqobi was born, he became sick. He was diagnosed with HIV, hepatitis C, and syphilis.
Mnqobi was sick nearly all the time. And he cried. A lot.
But he was the sweetest baby. He gave sweet snuggles. He was so cuddly. He had this little snuffly breathing. His would follow his caregivers around the room with his eyes.
He was most content when he was being held, snuggled in a carrier, or swinging.
He went to the hospital several times in the first few months of his life.
One night, he stopped breathing. A caregiver was able to help him start breathing again.
But he was too sick to stay at the baby house. So he was transferred to a special orphanage where the staff had more medical training.
Not long after, on December 23, 2004, Mnqobi slipped into eternity.
On December 31, 2004, his short life was celebrated by those who loved him.
I know. I was there.
I held him, snuggled him, took him to the doctor, played with him, fed him, brought him back to life, rocked him to sleep.
I shopped for his burial clothes, picked flowers for his grave, attended his funeral, and said goodbye.
I loved him.
AIDS is a terrible disease. It affects men, women, children, babies. It affects rich, poor, those in between. It affects people in Africa, Asia, the United States. It affects friends, family. It affects us all.
When you think of AIDS, don't just think of a bunch of tragic statistics.