November 20, 2009

November 20, 2009

Welcome to another day in my life as a long term survivor of HIV and AIDS. Today is Friday and I hope you have had a safe and great week so far.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know this have been a very long and stressful month for me. Not only is this the busiest time of year for me with raising donations for our Teddy Bear Touchdowns for children with HIV and AIDS around the world, but I have been dealing with health problems and the deaths of several close friends in rapid succession.

Peaches, Howard, Michael, Darren and Tammy have all gone from us now. And even though I have literally personally known almost 10,000 friends and acquaintances who have lost their battle; it never gets any easier. It always tears me apart. I never knew being a survivor of HIV and AIDS would mean I would grow old without my friends. And yes, it hurts more than I ever knew it could.

So today that is the topic I would like to talk about with you. Since 1996 and the release of life saving HIV medications, most people seem to think HIV and AIDS in no longer a problem. Trust me, nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true the number of deaths from HIV and AIDS is not what they were in the 80s and 90s; I still lose many friends and acquaintances every year.

This loss of life is due to many reasons. First, many of us fortunate enough to be alive after being diagnosed in the 80s had to struggle through years without any meds to help us. Then when medications did become available they were taken in what we know now were very toxic levels. But it was our only hope in staying alive so we gladly took them even though now we know they probably damaged our internal organs.

Even if you were not diagnosed in the first decade of HIV, people with HIV and AIDS have much higher rates of cancer, heart disease and organ problems. It has also been shown in clinical trial studies that people with HIV and AIDS age quicker than a HIV negative person. Then you have the stress associated with being HIV positive... getting health care, affording the medications and other cost and of course the continued stigma against those with HIV. So we have a lot we have to deal with while trying to live with HIV.

The good news for those of you who are newly diagnosed is recent studies from the National Institute of Health have shown if you are diagnosed while still healthy and if you follow your doctor's orders and practice healthy living habits; you can probably expect to live a natural life span. That is why it is so important for people who are sexually active (even if you think you are in a monogamous relationship) get tested for HIV at least once a year and preferably twice.

The saddest thing for me as an activist is when I am called to our local hospitals to meet with someone who just found out they are HIV positive and because they were never tested before they now have a depleted immune system and full blown AIDS diagnosis. Clinical trial studies have proven if people with HIV start taking medications while their immune system is still very healthy not only do they have less side effects but they will also live longer for the most part. Just one more reason people should get tested. It is horrible to have to tell someone they waited to late. Or to have to tell someone's family their loved one is may not make it because they found out too late.

I have had that very thing happen in the past few years. People of all ages who never thought HIV would happen to them end up in the hospital with almost no T-cells (immune system) and with one or multiple opportunistic infections. Then because they have no immune system to fight the infections, they end up never making it out of the hospital.

So once again I am going to beg everyone other there who reads my blog if you are HIV negative and sexually active; GET TESTED! KNOW YOUR STATUS! Your life can literally depend on it.

Those are my thoughts. What about yours? Drop me a line and let me know.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab