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Women's Study Seeks Answers

Winter '95

Attention Women with HIV and AIDS! We now have a great opportunity to help ourselves and other women infected with HIV. The Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS: pronounced "wise") began in October. It's a great way for women to have our health monitored for free. A team of doctors and nurses who are experts in the HIV/AIDS field will follow our health for four years. The principle investigator for the study is, Alexandra Levine, MD in Los Angeles.

I was the first woman to enroll in the study for the Santa Barbara County Area. I found it to be such a good and worthy experience that I wanted to share it with all of you. I wish for all women with HIV/AIDS to know what you can gain from being a part of this project. We all have a chance to make a big difference for women by taking part in this study.

This study will require a commitment of 4 years and a clinic visit every 6 months. The clinical monitoring will include laboratory tests, psychological help (if needed), gynecological exams and T cell counts. Researchers are trying to find out what factors are associated with progression of HIV disease in women; from initial stages of being well, to the stages of being ill with AIDS. I personally like the idea that this is not a treatment study and you don't have to take any experimental medicine.

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The doctors and staff helped me to feel very comfortable and relaxed; from the initial contact with the study coordinator/case worker, to my lab tests and throughout the whole physical exam. They treated me with respect and compassion. I did not experience the feelings of vulnerability and fear that I thought I would. I had a true sense that the clinicians respected me as a real person and not just a subject for them to exam and study. Many doctors seem to forget that we are real people with real lives!

The staff was just as excited as I was to be a part of this study. They kept thanking me for sharing myself with them and for helping them to learn more about women and HIV.

This study is such a great tool for the AIDS community to get detailed data on precisely how HIV/AIDS affects women directly. What a legacy to leave behind for our family and friends! We will know for the rest of our lives, and they will always remember that we, women with HIV/AIDS, contributed, in a very real and meaningful way, to the future knowledge and understanding of HIV infection in women.

"I personally like the idea that this is not a treatment study and you don't have to take any experimental medicine.

What a rush I felt as I left the clinic that day in November. As I drove home along the beach, I felt a sense of tranquility fill me up inside. I had new hope for myself and other women with HIV. I know this study will bring a new level of awareness and involvement for women. If women are to survive this disease they call HIV-slash-AIDS, then we can't count on others to find the answers for us. We must jump in with enthusiasm to help educate ourselves, along with the HIV/AIDS experts to create a team effort.

I tell myself: "to sit and wait is to die. To participate in reality on a day-by-day basis, is to live to the fullest! I hope that many of you will come, join the study, and get involved in living and participating, and feel the rush of life fill you up!!


To learn how you can join the Women's Interagency HIV Study, Call: In Santa Barbara, Maureen 805-681-5467 In Los Angeles, Mary 310-641-7795.




  
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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
 

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