Thursday, December 9, 2010

From the Depths of Despair to Hope

Persons with HIV/AIDS in Korea are relatively rare, so understanding the disease is often lacking. Until this year, those with HIV were not allowed to come into the country. But foreign English teachers, after arriving in the country, are required to be tested for the disease. If they are found to be positive, they are deported. Part of the reason for this is the failure of many of our citizens to understand how the disease is transmitted. An article in the recent Kyeongyang Catholic magazine tells us the story of a young man of 28 who discovered that he was HIV positive.

As a child he was made fun of by his classmates because he was fat. He was timid and lacked confidence, which made his early years unpleasant.  His father, when drinkingwould beat his mother in his presence, which made the home environment difficult. His pleasure at that time, to help him forget what he had to face daily, were drawing and fortune telling.
As an adult he joined the army, and during those years he found peace by going to a Buddhist temple. His time in the service passed without any problems; he credited this to the peace he found by going to the temple.                

Discharged from the army, he returned home to find the conditions worse than they had been. Poverty had forced the family to break up. It put an end to his desire to finish his education. He left to find work but manual labor on a continual basis was too much for his body, so he found work in the field of entertainment. This did not improve his life, so he went into the sex trade. Although the money was good, he was thinking of getting out of it. But before that happened, he came down with PL (People Living with HIV/AIDS).

The news hit him like a bombshell. He didn't want to believe it; it felt like the end of everything.  If only he  had been more careful, he thought, this wouldn't have happened. He was told that with medication, he could lead a normal but this did not help. He became depressed and the side effects of medication made his life miserable. He even attempted to kill himself but failed. There seemed to be nothing to live for.

He returned home hoping to renew the old ties, but it was not to be. One of his relations introduced him to a Religious Sister, but although he met her a number of times he was not able to open up. On one occasion the Sister told him not to see her as a religious but as just another human being talking to another. She asked him to make a retreat with her, and he accepted, surprisingly. From the time, he was a child, he hated to see pictures of Jesus and the cross; they gave him a headache.

However, he did go on retreat with the Sister for the full six days. There were prayers, talks, and attendance at his first Mass. He received the laying-on of hands, asked for healing, spent time before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer, and had feelings that he had never experienced before. He heard a  whisper in his heart "Live. It is not too late. Love."

During the months that followed, he would often hear the word "Live" and with it a feeling of gratitude for being in the world. He no longer felt it was money and honors that were important but a belief in the value of life was important. He was surprised by the change that took hold of him. A taste of happiness had  come into his life.  He began the study of the catechism, thanked God for the change in his life, and now has a loving relationship with him. 

Korea Catholic Red Ribbon is an Internet site that provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere for persons struggling with the disease. The site is also translated into  English:

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