How I Got Over My Fear of HIV/AIDS
My name is Rocky Bratt and I’m the subject of the 2013 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award-winning documentary, Blood Brother. Five years ago, I moved from Pittsburgh to India to live at an orphanage for HIV-positive children.
To be honest with you, I didn’t really like kids. I went to an orphanage for HIV-positive children in Chennai, India off a recommendation from a friend of a friend, it was to be one of many stops. The only reason we flew into Chennai was because the flights were cheaper. Shortly after a week, my friend and I both wanted to leave. The suffering at the orphanage was more than I could bear; the heat, the smell, the discomfort and the mosquitoes. We booked flights and said goodbye to the kids. But on the train ride to the airport, something hit me: I’m turning the suffering off, but those kids can’t. I knew I couldn’t take any of them out of that situation, but I could put myself into it. The thought was enough to cancel our flights and turn us around.
That was five years ago.
In the beginning I was very grossed out by HIV/AIDS. I had a major misconception about it. Their open wounds were terrifying to me. AIDS first struck me hard when I found out that dead HIV-positive children in the Indian hospital were being discarded in the trash, instead of receiving a respectable burial or ceremony. From there I began to notice injustices happening to the kids because they have AIDS.
As I talked to the kids, their deeper pain wasn’t the AIDS itself, but what it has done to their lives. A child with HIV/AIDS is often criticized by their family, friends, village, and society for something they can’t control. First their parents die, then their extended families don’t know what to do, so they relinquish them. They all have major separation anxiety. I found they had been abandoned many times over – in fact that’s all they knew. This completely shatters their confidence and makes them feel like they can’t succeed at anything. It’s easy for them to feel given up on. It actually brings them to a hopeless place where they can’t even develop goals. They are deeply wounded. The AIDS medication will hopefully keep them alive, but it’s hard to want to live when there’s seemingly no reason to.
My role in their lives is kind of a caretaker, a father figure, or big brother type. I focus on building the children’s emotional needs, as a family member would. I want to help them grow into strong, stable, and confident adults.
I understand I can’t erase their pain or replace their beloved families, but I can do my very best to make sure they are loved. My worldview was greatly shaped by the unstable and transient adult figures in my past. I was abused, mentally and physically. I now know more than ever how damaging this was for me – not having someone to believe in you or build you up and how that affects you. Their needs are greater with the added factor of AIDS.
We are family, and family doesn’t leave each other.
This week one of the boys had a massive wound on his stomach that filled with pus. I had to physically push and press the pus and blood out, then clean it and bandage it. When I first met the kids, there’s no way I would have believed I would be capable of doing that. Do I want to push pus and blood out of the boy’s stomach? No, I absolutely do not want to do that. But when he showed me the wound, it was clear, he “NEEDS” help. So it’s need vs. want. I don’t think that’s heroic, but it was the right, decent thing to do. I find myself doing a lot of things I don’t want to do, but they are things that need to be done.
Their entire lives are affected by HIV/AIDS. AIDS destroys their world. It removes their parents, siblings, their closest relationships, friends, dreams, homes, villages, stamina, promises, education, stability… you name it. It affects them socially due to rejection and isolation. Again, what I’m trying to do is create an atmosphere where it’s not so grim. My goal is to help restore as much as possible for the kids. I am trying to give them back the pursuit of happiness: jobs, futures, independence, and responsibilities that give them confidence and practical skills that make them valuable assets to society.
We stay together, work together, fight together, cry together, and hopefully die together.
Simply by hosting a screening or by watching Blood Brother, you are able to make a difference. 100% of the filmmakers’ proceeds go directly to the children seen in the film and to HIV/AIDS initiatives. In response to the film, we have created a 501c3 nonprofit, LIGHT (Living to Inspire Global Healing Today), to directly support the children and my efforts.
The filmmaking team has partnered with Tugg.com to enable individuals and organizations all across the country to host their own screenings of Blood Brother at their local theater, community venue, or campus. This is a small film with a huge heart, and it needs your support to be seen by the world!
Here’s how you can help:
- Host a Screening – Email BloodBrother@tugginc.com to find out how you or your organization can screen the film in a local theater or community venue. It’s easy! Here’s a video of how one promoter in DC did it. You can use these screenings to fundraise for LIGHT, or for your own causes.
- See the Film – Visit the website to find a showtime near you.
- Donate – Learn more about how to help the children and the nonprofit, LIGHT, here.
- Post – Encourage your friends on Facebook and Twitter to host a screening! We even have Sample Posts and Social Media Images for you to use!
The film has strengthened my relationships with people here in India and elsewhere. Through LIGHT, we’re bringing in a lot of support. We have raised money to help with a lot of needs and projects. We are developing small businesses that offer the kids fair hours and wages. This is critical, as the kids are living longer due to the introduction of HIV/AIDS medication and have trouble maintaining jobs due to their health. For example, we are getting a photo studio off the ground. The kids are displaying exceptional talent and we now have the tools to build bridges to their futures. It’s a very exciting time.