Jamaica

Newsweek magazine features young woman’s moving essay about her struggle to educate others about HIV/AIDS

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/HQ05-1507/ NICOLE TOUTOUNJI
Kerrel McKay launching the UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign at the United Nations.

By John Allison

NEW YORK, USA, 22 November 2005 - A young woman’s struggle to educate the world about the dangers of  HIV/AIDS has been given a boost today by Newsweek magazine, which is featuring her essay in its “My Turn” column in this week’s issue.

The powerful essay was written by Kerrel McKay, 20, a member of the Portland AIDS Committee in Jamaica. In the piece, Kerrel writes about her father’s illness caused by HIV/AIDS, her efforts to care for him in the years before he died, and how the experience inspired her to teach other young people about the disease.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/HQ05-1501/ NICOLE TOUTOUNJI
Kerrel McKay, 20, works as an outreach officer at the Portland AIDS Committee in Jamaica.

The essay isn’t the first time Kerrel has told her story. On October 25th at the United Nations in New York, Kerrel helped launch the UNITE FOR CHILDREN  UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign. In a speech before Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, and hundreds of guests, Kerrel spoke movingly about caring for her father as his condition worsened, and about how she felt she had to keep his illness a secret or else face stigma and discrimination. It’s a theme she expands on in her Newsweek essay, which begins:

“I was 9 years old when I found out my father was ill. It was 1994, but I can remember my mother's words as if it were yesterday: ‘Kerrel, I don't want you to take food from your father, because him have the AIDS. Be very careful when you are around him.’

“AIDS wasn't something we talked about in Jamaica when I was growing up. What I knew about AIDS could be summed up like this: If you were HIV-positive, you were going to die. You were going to suffer before you died. And you didn't expect anyone to treat you well, either.”

About 600 “MY Turn” submissions are sent in to Newsweek every month.


 

 

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