Women's Study Seeks Answers
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.
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.
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.
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.
This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.