A Decade of Positive Faces: James Oakes
How would you describe your health?
Pretty good. I've been something of a long-term non-progressor, as they say, and didn't take any meds for about 24 years. I just tried to put HIV out of my mind. But a couple of years ago, on the advice of my excellent physician, I started taking Atripla.
Are you experiencing any specific issues around HIV or your treatment?
Fortunately, I've never experienced any HIV-related symptoms. Except maybe worry! Lately, I've been attending a naturopathic clinic to address digestive issues. I also go regularly for shiatsu treatments. I continue to work with my psychiatrist -- "Dr. Killjoy," as I lovingly think of him -- mostly on deep-rooted family issues, and I take antidepressants. I enjoy smoking pot blended with tobacco. It enhances the creative, spiritual, social and intellectual aspects of myself.
You were on the cover of our Spring/Summer 2004 issue, for a feature story about long-term survivors. And now it's six years later and you're being interviewed for this magazine again. How does that feel?
Well, when I think of the death sentence that was handed to me back in the mid-'80s, it's pretty amazing. But I've always been a fighter. I continue to read books on healing and attend church from time to time, to connect with the oneness and love. If I could recommend one book, it would be The Dynamic Laws of Healing by Catherine Ponder. I hope I can serve as something of an inspiration to people who are living with HIV.
Since you appeared on the cover, what's been going on in your life?
I've lost a lot of friends over the past couple of years; ironically, not from AIDS. It's been really shocking and has made me more fully accept my own mortality. I strive to cultivate deeper levels of self-love and greater awareness, understanding, compassion, helpfulness, loving-kindness and forgiveness.
In one word, describe this moment in AIDS.
In 10 years ...
I'll still be playing ice hockey, but maybe in a seniors' league.
What song is the soundtrack of your life?
"Spiritual Healing" by Toots and the Maytals.
This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. It is a part of the publication The Positive Side. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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