Monday, November 29, 2010

World AIDS Day Remembrance, 2010

I am writing a couple of days early this year to remind you of International AIDS Awareness Day, also known as World AIDS Day, on Wednesday, December 1. As many of you know, writing a World AIDS Day note is a tradition that I started back in the 1980s. I have typically written a note on December 1 and mailed it out that day. This year, I want to give you a day or two to make plans for something special on December 1 to commemorate the event. At the very least, please find and wear a red ribbon.

This December 12th will mark the 25th anniversary of my having discovered my own HIV status. For the first few years, I lived with this disease expecting it to take a sudden and fatal turn for the worst. Around 1995, research into the Protease Inhibitor class of drugs resulted in the release of several alternative medications that significantly reduced mortality from AIDS. Although we aren’t dying as rapidly nor in as many numbers as before, we are still succumbing to the severe side effects of our ongoing, long-term daily chemotherapy which is commonly and insultingly called a "cocktail." The longer we survive HIV, the more we see AIDS-related cancers begin to surface. We also are seeing increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other cardiovascular disorders because of the metabolic changes that the drugs cause.

HIV/AIDS is no picnic for those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to medication and the cost is staggering. At this point in my life, I am taking in excess of 30 pills a day, six to treat my HIV and the rest to treat the side-effects of my HIV meds. Still, I am fortunate that I have access to HIV meds and I am even more fortunate that I have insurance that covers the cost of my medication. If I had to pay for my HIV meds alone, I would be paying out over $3K/month just for those 180 pills that keep me alive.

Sadly, millions of us around the globe are infected with HIV and the vast majority of us have no access to medication whatsoever. People in developing countries often face tremendous challenges in finding adequate nutrition, clean water and clinics, so the dream of affordable and easy access to anti-retroviral therapies is a dim hope. In a world where we need clean water more desperately than we need treatment for HIV, where malaria and hunger kill people more frequently than does AIDS, providing anti-retroviral therapy can be very low on the list of priorities for survival. It should be a priority of the human race to find a cheap, effective treatment for all people of the world. Better yet, we must make an effort to find a cure. It is unconscionable that so much money is going to treatment that it countermands any incentive for industry to find a cure. We must find a new paradigm for how our culture values its people.

At the same time that we are seeing improvement in the physical health of many westerners with HIV/AIDS, we are learning of ongoing discrimination and stigma against people living with the disease throughout the world. We must not allow the Earth to spin in reverse. We have to remove the stigma from this infection. AIDS is a disease. It is caused by the HIV virus. We have to confront those who continue to believe that AIDS is a punishment sent from God for some kind of deviant behavior. Many try to shame others into a form of behavior that they think will protect them from HIV. In reality, there is no place for shame in the discussion of HIV/AIDS, especially when it only drives people and their behaviors underground where the risks of infection are only increased.

Please take a moment on December 1 and think about what it would be like if you were to have been infected. What would you expect, want or need from your family, friends, loved-ones, church and government. Do you think you would get it? Can you change anything to see that you would? THINK! PROTEST! SPEAK OUT! VOTE!

One obvious thing for you to do is to make a tax-deductible contribution to any charity that provides AIDS relief. If you choose to make a donation in your community, please also consider the gift of time and action. A compassionate visitor with a home cooked meal is one of the world’s greatest gifts. Often, a hug can do more for the health of an individual than you might imagine. Hugs are free and they are safe.

In closing, let me remember, as always, my friends who were less fortunate than I. Not a day goes by that I do not miss them. If you wish, please feel free to add your own remembrances in the comments of this post.

In memory of:

Ralph, NC, USA
François, Paris, France
Daniel, Paris, France
Jorge, Havana,Cuba and Washington, DC, USA
Thierry, Paris, France
Chuck, Alberta, Canada
Dip, Washington, DC, USA
Charlie, NC, USA
Thomas, NC, USA
Kenny, NC, USA
Gene, Alberta, Canada
Johnny, TN, USA
Jamie, NC, USA
Hunter, Georgia, USA
Jim,IL and NC, USA
Joel, CA, USA
Randy, NC, USA

In honor of:

All who live with HIV/AIDS around the world.



Blogger Ron Hudson said...

Maurice Alexander, NJ...added for my dear friend Pat.

12/14/2010 10:34:00 AM  

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