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The News

By Ben B.

February 7, 2014

An HIV blog. How original.

Well, I had to. Anyone in their 30s had their childhood/adolescence saturated by HIV/AIDS. Why? I blame Reagan and his "Khristian Konservative Koalition."

This means that I'll be working through the layers of this news for some time, and that's why I thought writing was a good idea -- more or less, as a means of examining "What's Changed." Because everything has.

My 70-year-old father was in the room with me when I got my diagnosis, and for that I am grateful. He got to see, first-hand, the level of specialized care I get from my doctor. My doctor even made a point to tell my father, afflicted with Type-2 Diabetes, that in 2014 his condition is considered more serious than my own (I've gotten into trouble in the past comparing HIV with diabetes, so it was interesting to hear a medical professional break it down that way).

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I appreciated that comparison, but after that, I felt myself turning inward. During the drive home, I remember my dad saying, "Don't worry, you're going to be fine." He made a point to give me a big hug when he dropped me off, and even called me 10 minutes later, just to tell me:

"You are loved."

A really good thing to hear generally and definitely good in this scenario, but truth be told I was in shock. Maybe I still am. There's just so much new data to absorb.

For one thing, the oddest part of this whole experience is that there doesn't seem to be a huge rush to get me onto those immune-system-rebuilding meds. I'm concerned with how weak I am, how easily I'm wiped out, how I have no interest in eating, et cetera. Apparently, for this generation of meds, the confidence in them is so high they delay the regimen until all other infections and foibles are out of the way.

Given "Polar Vortex 2014" one of these delays has been "you need to go to this one clinic, but their pipes burst, so you'll have to try them later this week."

Any anxiety on my part has been responded to by my doctor with:

when you look back on this time period, re: HIV, you will think of this as having been 'the worst' of it.

That's an exciting prospect to think about (given how currently everything exhausts me). He assures me that it's entirely possible that in 6 weeks I'll be back to putting on weight, feeling better and eating more.

More to the point, it's counter-intuitive to how GenX/Y was "taught." My doctor went on: Up until a few years ago, quarterly labs were THE source of major anxiety. I guess I had been ignorant, but: you used to only take HIV Rx when your Tcell count headed into dangerous territory (below 200="AIDS"). These meds had debilitating side effects, so oftentimes you were left to deal with the lesser of two evils.

By comparison, I'm told the "cocktail" I will be starting, in 2014, will be tame. My greatest concern is side effects that affect mental health/nightmares/sleep. This would seem so incredibly superfluous to previous generations of those who have suffered with HIV.

I'm incredibly lucky. I have a supportive family (whom I underestimated the impact of this news -- maybe more on them in the future), I have a doctor who I'm truly happy/comfortable with, and I just have the memory of those millions of dead souls to reinforce my "wellness plan."

I am haunted by them, actually. That scene at the end of "Longtime Companion," where the survivors are walking along the beach and then SUDDENLY they're surrounded by the smiling faces of every last casualty of the Great Die-Off? I think about those people constantly.

I will beat this thing. I fully plan on being cured someday.




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