Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I like going to the theater. Especially when it's damn good. About three years ago, I sat in the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City (West Los Angeles) with my older brother watching two crazy talented young writers/actresses perform their two-woman show, In the Continuum.
It's the individual stories of two black women living worlds apart but who are both infected with HIV. One is a troubled South Central Los Angeles teenager - the other, a professional newswoman living in Zimbabwe pregnant with her second child. Both women have been infected by the men in their lives. Their paths never cross but their journeys deal with the cultural bias and the isolation they both face.
Tears streamed down my face as the playwrights/actresses brought these stories to life showing me a face to the AIDS virus I had never spent much time considering. Women whose hearts were not all that different than mine. It's easy, at first, to think these stories would never ever be my story. But this play struck a chord deep within and I left the theater humbled with the realization of how many women, especially in Africa, are living with this reality each and every day.
But it's easy to forget.
It's so damn easy to forget as we whirl away with the to-do lists and the laundry and the daily chaos of our motherhood.
I received an email recently asking me to spread the word about an organization that is doing the real work of helping pregnant women and new mothers in Africa learn how to prevent the spread of HIV to their children, which in turn, is saving hundreds of thousands of lives a year. I am honored to be a voice in this effort.
The organization is called mothers2mothers.
Each year, more babies are born with HIV in a single African clinic than in the U.S., U.K. and Europe combined, despite the fact that preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the virus is easy and inexpensive. Two-thirds of HIV-positive pregnant women in the developing world do not receive any of the medications that prevent HIV transmission to their infants. The situation is further compounded by the lack of complementary health care services for women and children and pervasive social stigma, in which extreme discrimination and violence can accompany a positive diagnosis.
Violence for being diagnosed.
Can you imagine?
mothers2mothers is tackling this issue head-on with what most of this world needs - education, counseling, and a secure, compassionate environment. The program trains, hires and pays "Mentor Mothers" who are HIV-positive women in the community who mentor other women who face the same battle. These mentors become financially independent, are seen as role models in their communities and combat stigma by example.
The result of the mothers2mothers approach?
Almost all m2m babies are HIV-negative; the mothers access life-saving medications; and fewer children are left orphaned.
How can you help?
mothers2mothers is honoring Mother’s Day by giving anyone who donates $50 or more both a special Mother’s Day card as well as a music video on DVD created by 17-year old rising star Rachel Eskenazi-Gold entitled “Save An Angel,” created in tribute to mothers2mothers moms. (This song can also be downloaded at iTunes.com.)
All you have to do is click here to get information on what I consider to be the perfect mother's day gift. (Along with, of course, some homemade cards and drawings from my kids.)
I, for one, do not need $50 being spent on fresh flowers or a crowded brunch to feel like I am being celebrated as a mother.
I would rather celebrate organizations like mothers2mothers for empowering mothers to create a new life for themselves and to give HIV-infected moms a fighting chance to keep doing the work that matters the most to all of us...
...the work of being a mother.
Will you help me spread the word?
* Donations must be received by April 27th to receive the card and music video. So don't delay. Get your mother's day shopping done now. And go tell your husband, this is what you want.