Maria Fickling explains that "for those eight little eyes that are, at this present day, still going through things -- I think to believe when someone really does love you, even when the biggest supporter and biggest cheerleader in your life is gone -- that's a lot."
She's talking about her two nieces and two nephews who lost their mother -- Michelle -- to HIV/AIDS at a time when love was all she had to give.
Fickling's says her sister was infected by her husband, who infected several other women in their family.
"That's a hard pill to swallow when you realize that -- from their standpoint-- that my father infected my mother and now my mother is gone," she adds.
After Michelle's death in 2002, Fickling says she looked into assistance for her nieces and nephews, but came up empty.
"At the time, we didn't know what to do. Our hands were tied, my parents are retired military. So, no one in the system would really help them," Fickling explains.
Frustrated, she tells me she took matters into her own hands -- starting an organization to offer emotional and financial support for children and families infect and affected by the disease like Michelle's Kids. But the journey hasn't been easy.
"It's hard to get people to donate a dollar or even to come forward and volunteer for three little letters that scare people so much," she admits.
Fickling says for families in similar situations, it's important to look past the stigma attached to those three or four letters and support the loved ones in need.
Fickling urges people to remember "that could be you, that could be someone in your family. Talk about it. Get tested. Support these organizations out here that are fighting for this disease."
If you would like to learn more about Michelle's Kids, head to https://www.facebook.com/MichellesKidswe'll.
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