As three young men and one of their mothers stepped to the
lectern for AIDS Awareness Day, Daryl Anderson wrapped each in a
Anderson, a biology professor at Lindenwood College, served as
host for the event Saturday at St. Joseph Health Center.
Perhaps undone by the gesture of affection, each of the three
young men - all of whom have AIDS - was unable to speak for a
moment or two afterward.
But talking about the disease was what they had come for. And
they wanted the audience to do more than listen.
"We need to talk about this," said Bill, speaking to an
audience of 50 or so, some of them teen-agers. "Talk to your
friends," he said. "If no one talks about AIDS, people will
continue to die."
For AIDS victims, however, talk can be expensive. Those who
admit to having the HIV virus that causes AIDS may loose health
insurance, jobs and the love and support of friends, relatives and
co-workers. Even literature for AIDS victims warns against
disclosure of the disease. Each speaker asked to be identified only
by given name.
Mothers who have AIDS are afraid to talk about their condition
for fear their children will be stigmatized, Anderson said. "What
you have is a sick woman trying to take care of her kids without
telling anyone she is sick," she said.
St. Charles County's response to the AIDS epidemic has been
"woefully inadequate," said Anderson. Information is scarce, and
AIDS patients have few resources, like testing facilities, food
pantries, transportation and even care for pets while they are in
Anderson said that an AIDS victim told her, "One of the worst
things is that by the time I make myself a sandwich, I'm too tired
to eat it."
Anderson meets with the Positive Living Support Group for AIDS,
which includes victims and their care-givers. The group, the only
AIDS support group in St. Charles County, meets the first and third
Friday each month at the health center.
Anderson said, "Churches need to talk about this more. So do
corporations. Some provide help for employees with AIDS, but they
don't counsel co-workers about the disease."
Keith, one of the panelists, said some people warned him not to
speak at the seminar because it would cause problems for him. He
said, "But I thought, `What can they do to me? I've got the
The men talked about the disease. The HIV virus attacks the
immune system, so victims die of infections that the body can no
longer fight off.
"Colds. They're deadly to us," said Keith. "When I get a cold,
I wonder: Is this the time? Is this the thing that's going to take
me, the common cold?"
Bill said, "It's living hell, is what it is. I can't tell you
how many friends I've had who've passed away. . . . That's the
Deanna, Bill's mother, said, "You live on the edge because you
don't know from one day to the next what it's going to bring. …