A Single Red Ribbon

I was a child in the 80’s, when HIV and AIDS first became household words. I remember TV movies and afterschool specials designed to educate us. But mostly, I remember the emotions. The deep, horrible fear of this great unknown virus that, at that time, was a death sentence. And I remember feeling thankfulness that nobody I knew had it.

Over the years, HIV and AIDS have turned into generic terms that I only heard on the news, usually attached to statistics. HIV and AIDS seemed so far away from me. They didn’t really affect me except when I went into the mission field and treated AIDS patients in third-world countries. I fell into a complacent mindset that AIDS doesn’t happen at home, to people I know or love or interact with on a daily basis. It’s not a real threat to me or those I love, right?

And then, late one Friday night, I got a phone call and found out that I was wrong.

Thursday is World AIDS Day. It seems like EVERY day is Something-Or-Other Day lately. It’s National Doughnut Day or National Ice Cream Day or National Feed Hotdogs to Your Kids Day.

But this is different.

Maybe you’re like I was and you’ve forgotten the risk. Maybe you’ve just never known someone with HIV or AIDS and you don’t know what it means or what it looks like. Maybe you’re just so afraid of it that you’d rather forget about it and avoid it.

I’m sorry, but fear is no excuse for ignorance.

Let me make it clear. There are people who you know that have HIV or AIDS and they need you. They’re your friends, your neighbors, quite possibly someone you interact with every day. They need you to learn and understand. They need you to care. They need your support. They can’t do this alone. We’ve come so far. We can go further.

So this year, don’t just let World AIDS Day pass by unnoticed. You don’t have to do much. You can wear a red ribbon. You can spend a few minutes educating yourself or your friends or your children. You can hug a friend who has HIV or AIDS and remind them that they are loved and never alone. You can give your time or donate money to research or donate money to assisting those living with HIV or AIDS and most of all, get tested—know your status.

Just don’t do nothing.

Let’s Love One Another.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

About Sarah Salter


  1. Kari Norman says:

    I lost my father on December 22, 1998 due to complications from AIDS. He was an IV drug user, who lived a reckless and violent life. The last time I saw him, face to face, I was 5. The last time I had any communications with him, I was a senior in high school. One of the last letters I sent to him included my senior year picture. He was incarcerated in a federal prison in Tucson, AZ. For years I entertained the thought of going and visiting him. I thought if I could just see him one more time, I could rectify the horrible hurt I suffered for most all of my life. Everytime I got close, I found an excuse not to go. I often thought I would get there and he would deny seeing me, filled with anger and hate. I had no idea, at the time, that he was as sick as he was. Hind sight says that maybe God interevened so that we would remember each other just as we wanted…perfect. After he passed, it was up to me to take care of his affairs. After contacting both the morgue and prison, I waited for his personal belongings to arrive. The day they did, I went to the post office and picked up 3 cardboard boxes. My dad’s entire life condensed into this measley lot. I chose the box I had put in the front passenger’s seat to open first. On the very top of the pile of things was a simple, blue velcro wallet. I picked it up and opened it. The very first picture, slightly faded and edges worn, was my senior year picture. I sat there, in front of the post office, sobbing. No other family pictures were inside. Only mine. Oh how I suddenly wished I had gone to see him. As I poured through the boxes later that evening, I was stunned to find out just how much we had in common. It was astounding. I WAS my father’s daughter. I never knew him, and yet I was looking at myself in a mirror. My point is this…it’s NEVER too late. Don’t turn your back. If your heart is tugging, follow it. I didn’t. Everyday, I wish I had.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Kari, you are loved. You were loved by your father and you are extravagantly loved by your Father. Don’t you ever forget that!

  3. Karen Evans says:

    Thank you, Sarah. 🙂

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank YOU, Karen!

  5. Kerri (Earringopia) says:

    Thought-provoking post. Kari’s comment is unforgettable.

    I remember the night that Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive. I remember how suddenly and how hard that fact hit home for me and for my boyfriend at the time. We were watching the news, saw the announcement, and just stared at each other, speechless, realizing that it was not a disease that other people got, it was a disease that ANYBODY could get and our world actually shifted on its axis. It’s something we knew was for real in one part of our consciousness, but Magic making the announcement brought the fact out kicking and screaming in broad daylight; no denying it now.

    I’m glad we talk about it openly now. It’s only by hearing these stories that we connect and remember and work to change things.

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    You know, Kerri, the thing is that we DON’T talk about it. Not in my world. One thing that sparked this post was an article I was reading on CNN that said that the Southeast portion of the US (the portion I live in) has the largest amount of HIV/AIDS patients and the largest number of new diagnoses each year. But yet, here, we still don’t talk about it. As a region, we are less likely to talk about sex with our kids. We’re less likely to get tested. And we’re less likely to get care if we learn that we are infected. All because of fears and stigmas. It’s time to talk about it. So, here I am. Unafraid to talk about it. And that’s my small way of making a difference.

  7. HIV/AIDS is a terrible thing, but you’re right–get the facts and know how to support. I’ve been able to support someone with the disease and just love them through it. It’s devastating, but so needed. Thanks for this reminder, Sarah.

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    You’re welcome, Jason! For people living with HIV/AIDS, they have to cope with the realities of the disease every day. It’s time for the rest of us to come alongside of them and help them cope. Every day. Not just once a year. So, here we are. Let’s come alongside. 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing this, Sarah.

    And to Kari: Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal story so beautifully. My heart goes out to you.

  10. Sarah Salter says:

    Love you, JoMama! Thanks for coming by!

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