New Years has a funny effect on us humans. We get all nostalgic, hopeful for the future and emotional. Okay, maybe the Holiday parties with lots of alcohol have something to do with that, but it's also our nature to look back at the year that was, and dream about what the new year will bring. After all, who doesn't want the coming year to rock, so of course we're going to start it off with high hopes.
It seems we've come full circle. I can remember a time in the late '90s/very early 2000s, when the sheer amount of "me too" drugs pouring out of the pipeline seemed to me, well, lazy on the part of Big Pharma. At first the NRTIs, protease inhibitors and NNRTIs were Godsends; but after a much-needed few of each were approved, it seemed that the pharmaceutical companies were taking the easy way out by finding something that worked, tweaking them a bit, slapping a new name on them, chucking them in a bottle and calling it a day.
Several months ago a media frenzy reported Danish researchers as being months away from curing AIDS. During this time, countless individuals discontinued their HIV medication, believing the cure would soon be available.
With the recent flurry of HIV "cure" reports, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to sort out who's actually been cured and what stories are media hype, wishful thinking, or premature reports of success.
When it comes to relationships, some HIV positive people have a clear cut policy on the serostatus of potential partners. Some will only be with another HIV positive person, some will only be with an HIV negative partner and for some it's not even a part of the 'should I get involved with this person' decision. Of the four relationships I've had since the person I became positive from, only one was HIV positive. I'm one of the 'it has no bearing on my decision' people.
Being an AIDS treatment activist holds lots of very special memories for me. I could go on telling stories for days of demonstrations, actions, conferences and everyone and everything that made them special. I joined ACT UP New York right after the first protease inhibitors were approved. The dying in the U.S. was just beginning to slow down and people were still afraid and angry. ACT UP still named those who had died during the week at each meeting.
During the opening plenary at AIDS 2012 Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, delivered a highly passionate and inspiring speech to help kick off the conference. During his speech he called for all people living with HIV to reveal their status to help end HIV stigma. He did say that for some people this isn't possible because of certain issues. I worryingly see a movement in the making asking people to come out as HIV positive and this concerns me.
Take a moment and think back to when you tested positive for HIV. What was your initial reaction? What went through your head? For most of us it was sheer panic. "What now?" is usually one of the first questions that comes to mind.
If you're not HIV positive, think of a time where you were tested for HIV and sweated it out while waiting for the results. Some of us thought we'd kill ourselves rather than live with HIV/AIDS, believing our lives would be over.
I am not a victim of HIV or AIDS. I am not someone to fear or pity. I am not beneath anyone, less of a person, or unworthy because I am HIV positive. I am a person living with HIV. I am me! Not the same person I was before I was diagnosed, I am better than I was. I am more than I was. I am more now than I probably ever would have been without HIV because the virus has made me, allowed me, facilitated me, to grow and evolve in ways I never would have been able to without it. I know this. I will not allow ANYONE to pity me, stigmatize me or try to make me feel less than who I am. I do not give anyone that power over me. Because of this I say here, LOUD and CLEAR, for me as a person with HIV, personal stigma is irrelevant!
Almost everyone with HIV has felt from time to time, or been made to feel, like a "pariah." We've all heard the word. Most of us know the feeling. As if other people need to be protected from us. We've heard people say "HIV is the new leprosy" or in our defense "HIV's not leprosy you know." How about the ad with the scorpion in bed as if we were poison?
Groundbreaking results of two large pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) studies may lead to a new prevention option to reduce HIV transmission. Data released on two PrEP studies showed high levels of protection against HIV infection when tenofovir (Viread) or Truvada (tenofovir and emtricitabine) were taken daily by HIV-uninfected individuals at high risk for infection.