PVI has many great slogans to describe the work we do. The one that stuck out to me the most when I was applying, was “walking with the crucified of today”. I gained a whole different perspective of walking with the crucified of today when I started walking with the people in my HIV/AIDS Ministry. HIV/AIDS is highly stigmatized here in Jamaica. People don’t let others know they have HIV for fear they will become an outcast in society. Often times, when others find out someone has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS their immediate reaction is fear. Fear that being seen with them will lead to other ostracizing them the same way the sick are ostracized. Fear of becoming sick themselves. This is a cross that people living with the disease bear on their own because to ask others for help or guidance is akin to signing up for a lifetime of loneliness. Many do not even tell their family members.
This ministry is a safe haven for them. Here, they know they will not be judged, will not be treated differently, and will have their human dignity upheld. Having a place where they feel like they can be 100% themselves brings such joy. Everytime we travel to someone’s house to check in how they are doing and bring them food, their smiles light up the room. A couple that I frequently visit always welcomes me with open arms and greets me with “Welcome Home” when I come into their yard. When I’m with them, it’s their joy that truly makes me feel I am home. We spend a lot of time together talking and learning from each other. They teach me how to do things I never thought I would find myself doing. They even taught me how to scale a fish! When I spend time with them, I feel like I am gaining far more than I am giving. Another woman I visit greets me with tears of joy. She is so happy that someone is taking the time to visit her and treat her like a human being, it takes a minute for her to compose herself.
It is these thing that make people, human beings, truly happy. These are the little gestures every human craves. Smiles. Companionship. Time. Compassion. While much of our work is about making sure they are well fed, take their medication regularly and make sure their basic needs are met, it is these little gestures that mean the most to them. Having a group to support them reminds them they aren’t alone in the world; there will always be someone who cares about them