RE; re; recently poz
Sep 1, 2005
Dear Dr. Wohl,
Thanks for responding to my rather angry 'question'. I needed to hear that.
I am a 46 year old gay male that know better. Infected in April, tested poz May 21. Completely devastated.
Why did I put myself at risk? I thought I was immune. I had dodged the bullet in LA during the 80's while friends all around me were getting sick and dying. At the height of it, there was at least one funeral a week. This went on for several years. Also, getting older for a gay guy is a big deal. I became addicted to the danger, the allure of doing something I shouldn't be doing. The adrenaline rush was intense and helpful in making me forget the pain and reality of getting older. It also was a drug used to dull the pain of abuse as child. It was also a way of saying fuck you to George Bush and Antonin Scalia and all the conservative extremists that want me to go away.
I did not think I would get it, I didn't want to get it. I had done PEP a few times and it worked. This emboldened me to do even riskier behavior. I learned there is a limit to what PEP can do and I crossed it.
What would have helped? I think a simple, matter of fact ad campaign with real people telling and showing how HIV has affected their lives and the lives of their loved ones. One showing the simple reality of seroconverting and dealing with HIV might have made a difference. Someone like me telling thier story about how they had survived the worst of the scourge, thought they would never get it but did. Talking about the risk of PEP and the just how awful it is to seroconvert and deal with HIV, the tests, the waiting, the questions: am I resistent, what is my set point, is it too high, is my strain virulent, when will I fell better, will I feel better, should I start meds and on and on.
No preaching about how irresponible, immoral, wrong and dangerous barebacking is. This just makes it more tittilating, more sexy in that it is something dirty, something wrong.
No pedantic safe sex mantras. We know that already.
The drug ads have to go. The subliminal message is a big fat lie. The message that HIV is a manageable condition controlled by a taking a few pills a day was a factor in my rationalizing that even if I get it, it's not so bad. I might even lose a few pounds and look like those hot guys.
Drug companies should not be allowed to advertise prescription drugs. They can't in the rest of the civilized world. They shouldn't here.
I am living in UK and entered a clinical trial for recently converted. I did so out of guilt for what I had done to myself, and to maybe salvage some good out of my reckless, suicidal behavior in that the results might help someone in the future. I am on Kaletra and Combivir and have gone from a VL >500000 to undetectable in a month. I did very well the first month but am now growing tired of the constant chemical taste and smell. My energy levels had rebounded but now seem to be ebbing. I will hang in there.
I am getting ready to start some counseling as the guilt is overwhelming. I am not in danger of putting a gun to my head, but I haven't completely ruled it out. I think about what I have done many times a day and it has been hard to live with that. It has been getting better but somedays are not so good, especially after I read (or misread) a post like the recently poz.
BTW, like the other poster, I too have watched a parent smoke themselves into emphysema. Self abuse whether it be barebacking, overeating or smoking, might be better treated as a mental illness.
Thanks for letting me get this out. This has been far more difficult and painful than I had ever imagined. Especially since I am one of those that did this to themselves and should have know better.
I know this is off topic so don't feel compelled to post this. I just thought you might enjoy my point of view on what might have made a difference. Maybe a new forum is warranted.
Thanks again and I really appreciate your compassion.
Best Regards, Larry
Response from Dr. Wohl
Thanks again, Larry. Your experience may be more potent than any ad campaign and is certainly a powerful counter-point to those 'hot guy' drug company adverts. I think the CDC should hire you (are you willing to have your mug on the side of buses across the country?)
Most of the posts on this issue tell a similiar story: the thrill of living on the edge, magical thinking regarding susceptibility, nihilism, depression and despair. Together they make clearer the stories behind the statistics and point to the direction well intentioned prevention minded folks need to go.
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