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Michael Shernoff Ends Role at The Body's Ask the Experts Forums

December 2003

Michael Shernoff, MSWAfter seven years of being The Body's online mental health expert, I will be giving up this position effective January 1, 2004. It has been tremendously meaningful to me to be part of The Body's community and mission to provide the most comprehensive online information and resources. I have felt very honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to respond to as many questions as I did and, hopefully, to have been helpful and sensitive to the diverse issues and needs that people all around the world raised in the mental health forum. I want to thank all of you who trusted in me, in the Internet, in The Body and most of all in themselves and their belief in the right to access information and answers. I hope that I have handled your faith in me with dignity and care.

For people lucky enough to live in developed countries and have access to sophisticated health care, HIV is now often a chronic rather than nearly always fatal illness. "Chronic" does not at all imply that it is no longer a serious as well as potentially lethal illness. For people in Africa, Asia and other parts of the developing world, a diagnosis of HIV is still tragically a death sentence, despite the existence of antiretroviral drugs. This is an inequity and tragedy of unparalleled urgency, and I urge all of us who have the means to do so, to use our resources and privileges to help put an end to it before millions more people die ... preventably and needlessly.

For those of us who do live in developed countries, we all too often encounter attitudes among people that seem to belie the seriousness of HIV disease, and help account for the rise in new infections among people who know how HIV is transmitted.

When I first found out that I was infected with HIV in the late 1980s, I had not expected to live until 40. I am now almost three years past my 50th birthday and, for whatever reasons, am still perfectly healthy, robust and living a full, productive, satisfying and joyous life. I am well aware of how fortunate I am. I buried my brother, too many friends, over 150 patients and a beloved partner, all victims of AIDS.

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The current political climate in the U.S. is an extremely dangerous one. Despite protestations otherwise, the power structure treats disenfranchised individuals and groups, both within the U.S. and around the world, as expendable. This is precisely the attitude that allowed HIV and AIDS to spread so rapidly when it first appeared. The original slogan of ACT UP, the grass roots AIDS activist organization that helped change the way health care is delivered, is now once again as relevant as it was almost 20 years ago. Please always remember ... "Silence = Death."





  
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