Today I turn 52. Ouch. That sounds older than I feel. But it’s the truth and I’m going to embrace it. Some parts of me are showing their age and that’s annoying. But in most ways, 52 is a good place to be. Of these 52 years I’ve enjoyed half of them married to someone who is possibly the best husband in the world. I’ve brought 5 beautiful children into the world. I endured the heartbreak of burying our firstborn child in West Africa many years ago. But our three oldest children are now amazing young adults who make me proud. Our youngest is still at home with us – keeping the home busy and lively. I’ve had the privilege of the best kind of work in the world – a job where you meet new people almost every day and where your mandate is to help people enjoy a healthy and meaningful life. Turning 52 is a privilege that not every woman in this world will get to enjoy. In Canada, I can expect to live well into my 80s. That makes me very happy because I have so much more that I look forward to enjoying in the years ahead.
But I am very cognizant of the fact that there at least 18 countries in the world where the life expectancy is less than 52 years of age. One of the factors that has contributed to the continued low life expectancy in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa is the pandemic of HIV. There is a dramatic Hans Rosling video that illustrates how life expectancy across sub-Saharan African dropped in the 1990s as a result of the pandemic. The premature death of men and women in the countries most affected by HIV is entirely preventable. I want to live in a world where the place of your birth does not determine the length of your life.
So my birthday wish is this – that men and women everywhere would be able to grow old. And in the week ahead of World AIDS Day, if you read this blog, I hope you will consider some way to help. You can help to advocate for the passing of the AIDS bill in the House of Commons. You can recognize World AIDS Day on December 1 – by giving a day’s pay to an organization that will use your money well to support the communities most severely affected by HIV. Please help make my birthday wish come true. Please give the gift of a long and healthy life!