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Life or Death
May 1, 1997

This is my fifteenth year of being HIV positive. I have had no medical problems that I would say are AID related. I could say that in my forty-five years on this planet I've never had a family doctor, nor have I ever been on any protocol of pharmaceuticals. Over the last fifteen years I have buried at least fifty friends, a great number of whom I aided in their dying process. Without question, all of these people where under medical supervision, and on one kind of pharmaceutical protocol or another. Clearly, once these people gave up their power for living, and turned their life over to the protocols administered they all died within three to six months. There was an exception to the rule, where a friend lived two years beyond everyone's expectation. Having been his main care giver for a great deal of this time, I can tell you personally, he milked this disease for all it was worth. The only think that was keeping this guy alive was a constant supply of marijuana. He was to stone to realize he was dead. If your pharmaceutical protocols are so life enhancing, why than where the lives of my friend a living hell from one drug to the next, and why are they all dead? Patrick

Response from Dr. Cohen

Patrick, There are long-term survivors who don't take medications, and there are long-term survivors who do. There are long-term survivors who eat right, meditate, visualize, exercise, and take all manner of herbal supplements and vitamins; there are others who use heroin and cocaine and alcohol to great excess.

Those who refuse medications and take only "natural" therapies are the ones who make the newspapers and get interviewed on Oprah, leading many people to develop a very skewed perception of the merits of medical therapy.

What is increasingly clear, however, is that some people live a long time with HIV no matter what they do or don't do. It probably has to do with their genetic makeup. You may be on e of the fortunate few, but it would be a mistake (and a gross error of logic and reason) to conclude from your experience that it is medical therapy that has killed your friends.

With just about any disease there is enormous variation in how people do, and that variation looks a lot like a Bell curve. Most people are in the middle-- but there will always be a minority who do very poorly and another minority who beat the odds. AIDS is a disease that is a progressive and fatal if untreated. Since most people with HIV infection take medications it's easy enough to conclude that if they die, it was the medications that did it-- easy, but quite fallacious. The fact is that even with the drugs we used in the late 80's--nucleoside monotherapy--the average person lived longer if they were treated. The differences are much greater, now that our therapy is so much more effective. Statistics may be dry, boring, and hard to understand. But when you have multiple large clinical trials involving thousands of patients which clearly demonstrate that antiretroviral therapy prolongs life, a sensible person will realize that those data count for more than the experience of a single atypical individual.



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