Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day.

The summer after my sophomore year of college, I had the priveldge to travel to the southern part of Africa to work in a orphanage with AIDS affected children.

Not all of these children had HIV, but many of them did, or had at some point. What many people don’t know about AIDS/HIV, is that if a mother has AIDS, it doesn’t mean her child will definetly have AIDS.

AIDS is only transmitted three ways: through sex, blood, and breast milk. A child who is born to an HIV positive mother, is generally HIV positive at birth, but with proper nutrition, being fed formula, and (in some cases) antiretrovirals drugs, the child can be HIV negative by the time the 18 months old. 18 months is the cut-off — if you are not negative by then, you will most likely have HIV for the rest of your life.

Today, in America and other prosperous countries, HIV is not a death sentance. With proper management, you can live decades before you have full-blown AIDS. But, for the poverty stricken people of third-world countries like Africa, education and access to good nutrition and antiretrovirals, is difficult.

I’ve had people ask me why HIV positive children in third world countries deserve our help. I don’t have a rational answer other than: no one deserves to die without a chance, even if we know death is what will ultimatly happen. All of us will die. None of us know when. Why should a child, and infant suffer when they don’t have to? I can’t describe to you how heartbreaking it is to hold a suffering, dying child and know something could have been done.

Motsilisi, who passed away as a result of HIV only two short months after her birth.

Please, this December, learn more about AIDS and HIV, and find out what you can do to help raise awarness and support the search for a cure. Because everyone, American and African alike, deserves the change to live as full a life as possible.