The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Literature from Mexico City

The Soul of AIDS


 By Dra. Gloria Ornelas Hall, Mexico (Published in Issue 10)

Birth and death are unfathomable, indomitable mysteries with a will of their own. We
cannot put AIDS into full perspective, without the profound dimension cast by
the shadow of death. HIV has given living, soulful meaning. It has reminded us
of the vulnerability of the human condition, the inevitability of death, with
inescapable, uncontrollable dynamics of its own.

We cannot care for AIDS without honoring the spirit of fate. We cannot expect antiretroviral
management, to care fully for AIDS. It requires relegating intentionality beyond understanding, to face the challenge of grounding and acceptance in the intimacy of our solitude.

Twenty seven years we have spent denying AIDS as a personal risk; relegating it onto “others”; avoiding full confrontation and commitment, because of the underlying fear of death.

Facing suffering and death was once, an honorable challenge; a chance to develop virtue, with stamina, fortitude, courage, tenacity, patience. Today we are terrified of pain, requiring aspirins, anesthesia, sleeping pills, avoiding the
thought of it through alcohol, drugs, food, or sex.

Once we accept death as our daily partner, we can live fully, surrendering humbly unto fate, finding eternity in every added minute we enjoy.

It’s not about religion but about the soul’s sacred dimensions. Our relationship to death must be grounded on a bedrock much firmer than the human ingenuity of medicine, alone, tapping into underlying respect for destiny.

To limit experience to our five senses is to limit reality to what we know. Learning is in the depth of what we cannot fathom. As Oscar Wilde put it:

“Only the shallow know themselves”.

AIDS cannot be fully grasped if we think we can control it. It is, in itself, a healer that is giving ordinary life, meaning and healing. Death then, becomes the eternal presence of the soul. As Heraclitus taught “The soul is its own source of unfolding”. Till we find solutions that give us full understanding and control, we must honor the mystery at heart. AIDS patients have been trying to teach us all these years, honoring love, friendship, bonding, germinating new
encompassing families.

Soul-centered approach to AIDS requires going beyond diagnosis, beyond simple judgments of good or bad. It requires new levels of awareness recognizing the soul of growth and deepening, in pain.

We are afraid of exposure to pain, of facing our own inevitable death. Our shallow experience of life has limited our attitudes and intentions to what we can see and touch.

AIDS is offering us exposure to our own death..our own meaning of life. ‘Care of the soul’ as Thomas Moore puts it, requires acceptance of destiny. Of course we must, with Dylan Thomas “Rage against the dying of the light”..but also, we must find light in dying. AIDS allows time to re-evaluate worldly things and possessions; to develop closeness and relatedness with others; to establish a new relationship of intimacy with ourselves.

The only experiences common to all human beings, are birth and death. We were all born and we are all going to die…It’s how we die that gives living meaning. AIDS brings awareness and rebirth to soulful living.

To all with HIV/AIDS who are teaching us , thank you.


 Dra. Gloria Ornelas-Hall: M.D.,Epidemiologist, Master in Public Health. Studied Communication, Education, Psychology and Human Development. Was in Mexico’s AIDS Program; Med. Serv.of UNAM; Pres.of the Mex. Assoc. of Sexology ; member of World Mental Health; Lte. in the Mex.Navy; Hon. Member of the Med. Assoc.of U.S. Military; Vice Pres. of Int. Women's Forum; Advisor of the Nat.Inst. of Women; “Woman of the Year" 2001; consultant at WHO, USAID and FHI.


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