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Dec 14, 1998

A long time ago I read a list of characteristics considered common to long term survivors of HIV/AIDS. The list included things like "does not accept the diagnosis as a death sentence" and "performs altruistic acts for others living with HIV/AIDS". Are you aware of such a list? If so, do you agree with those characteristics? Amy

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I only vaguely remember what you are talking about. My impressions are that first and foremost being a long term survivor is based on luck. For instance, the late great AIDS activist, Michael Callen, used to say he drank lots of Coca Cola, smoked cigarettes and pot and ate junk food. Science has also recently discovered a certain gene that is present in non-progressors.

On an emotional level, long term survivors that I have known all have created a very complex and extremely well functioning support system. They are exquisite consumers of medical care and demand that their MDs treat them as partners in their health care. They are not afraid to change doctors if the relationship is not working for them. If they get depressed they get help to treat the depression. They also keep a realistic balance of living with a life threatening illness and planning for a future that they try their very best to make sure they will live to enjoy. Michael Shernoff, MSW

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