Cyprien Pearson of Petaluma High School

In the wake of terrible disasters, such as the tsunami in Japan, there has been a never-ending stream of people shrugging, “It doesn’t affect me . . . Why should I care?” Although it may be true that a woman struggling to find her missing child amid the rubble of a downed Japanese home may not directly affect someone here, the thought still remains that for a myriad causes and events, the suffering of some should conjure up a universal system of support no matter what nation one calls home.
Nothing else hearkens to this more than the fight against AIDS. While reading the epic of AIDS called “And the Band Played On,” one voice in my senior English class spoke up with his opinion: “I just don’t care.” Now, this was a response to the subject of AIDS, the discussion of it and his refusal to participate — all because he was “sorry, but AIDS didn’t affect (him) so (he) didn’t care.” The teacher shook her head and smiled. The entire class laughed and, shocked, I laughed as well. At the time, I believed his statement to be flippantly sarcastic, yet only after class ended did I realize that this young man was serious. In every way possible, he could care less about a disease that, on this and every day, nearly 35 million people live with and pass along.
Well, that is primarily Africa, you might say; AIDS is not a problem in the U.S. This also is an argument falsely employed to dismiss oneself from the immediate crisis. However, is it not human emotion to hold sympathy for others? People suffer from AIDS in all countries of the world, every state of the U.S., and each city in those states. In fact, a fraction of that 33 million — approximately 1,240 individuals — call Sonoma County their home.
On a broader scope, one must realize that if 33 million people have AIDS and each has 10 friends or family, the world holds 330 million people who feel the disparity of the disease. In this way, the young man in my class stood horribly mistaken in his words, as ignorant as they were selfish. More than 1,000 people in our immediate area in California live with AIDS.
Accordingly, the fact remains that the chances of any Sonoma County resident knowing, becoming acquainted with or catching AIDS does not ring of impossibility; it stands as an entirely plausible event. At that point will you care?
During my four months in Southern Africa, I came to call many AIDS victims friends. While some imagine an AIDS victim as unknown, I see the face of Myda, a toddler orphaned by the disease in Mozambique; James, the South African high schooler whose parents reluctantly thought about his future and dismissed the idea of college as an expense that he would never live out; and the nameless elementary students who sang to us as we visited them (one in three suffering from AIDS themselves).
On this day, if AIDS does not affect you directly, how long will it take before it does? How long will it be before a friend, family member or you come into direct contact with the disease? Days, months, years? But truly, how long will it take to care about another?