Showing posts with label HIV positive. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HIV positive. Show all posts

Thursday, February 2, 2012

HIV is 'Like Diabetes'? Let's Stop Kidding Ourselves

via HuffPost Gay Voices, by Jonh-Manuel Andriote

My antenna perked up when I read a gay man's comment that HIV infection is essentially no big deal anymore.

"It's like diabetes these days," he said. As an HIV-positive 53-year-old, familiar with the health details of some near and dear diabetics, and having just written an article about the type-2 ("adult onset") diabetes epidemic, I'd say this: we need to choose our analogies carefully.

A naïve image of type-2 diabetes is understandable if your perception is based on the trim, middle-age joggers touting their finger-stick tests and blood glucose meters in TV commercials during the evening news.

In actual fact, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in America. As many as 7 in 10 people with diabetes will die of heart disease or stroke.

In 2007 diabetes killed or contributed to the deaths of 231,404 deaths in this country alone, and this year the World Health Organization projects 3.2 million worldwide will die from diabetes.

Diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness. One of every 50 people with diabetes will be blind within 15 years. It's the top cause of kidney failure.

In 2008 a total of 202,290 people with end-stage diabetes-related kidney disease depended on dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive.

Diabetes is behind most non-traumatic lower-limb amputations. Thirteen million men in the U.S. over age 20 -- 11.8 percent of all adult men -- have diabetes.

Among women, 12.6 million, or 10.8 percent of all women over age 20 have it. An estimated 7 million Americans are believed to have diabetes but don't know it.

The percentages are highest among blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.

Sure it's possible to manage type-2 diabetes once someone has a diagnosis and is aware that their pancreas isn't producing enough insulin to regulate their blood sugar.

It's even better to prevent diabetes by reducing the behaviors that lead to obesity, the number-one cause of type-2 diabetes.

At best, someone with type-2 diabetes can commit to a strict regimen of healthy eating and exercise that for some has reversed the disease to the point that they need no more medication.

The American Diabetes Association says that five years of normal blood glucose readings without medication can be considered a "complete remission."

Many more, however, struggle to alter their longtime eating habits or make time for exercise as basic as walking. Without making the changes it takes to successfully manage diabetes, they pit their medication against their poor nutrition and sedentary habits and hope for the best.

They may be diligent about taking their meds and keeping their many medical appointments, but even the labels on the diabetes medications explain that they are to be "used along with diet and exercise," and, on some meds, "weight loss."

We need to banish the notion that HIV infection today is "like diabetes," in spite of their similarities.

Both are transmitted through intimate behavior, one through sex, and the other, frequently, through family habits passed down over generations.

Both diseases are alike in that they are best avoided and challenging to manage. They both cost a great deal of money for medications, medical specialists, and lab work.

Certainly, HIV and diabetes each could destroy your health and likely kill you if they aren't properly managed.

As for people with type-2 diabetes seeking to manage their illness, a healthy diet and exercise strengthen an HIV-positive person's ability to handle the daily impact of toxic chemotherapies; the hassle of medical appointments and blood work every few months; the discipline of taking pills every day, and dealing with their physical side effects; and the emotional, financial, and psychological tolls of having a financially and socially expensive medical condition.

But beyond this, and in spite of the obvious differences between a viral disease and a metabolic one, the most striking difference between having HIV and type-2 diabetes today is this: There's not even a remote chance that changing my diet or exercise habits can cure what I have.

If only.

Read the rest

Friday, January 20, 2012

Testing and Hearing HIV Test Results Together

via The Associated Press, by Carla K. Johnson

CHICAGO — Newly dating and slightly anxious, two men bared their arms for blood tests and pondered the possibility that one of them, or both, could be infected with HIV.

An innovative program — called Testing Together — would allow them to hear their test results minutes later, while sitting side by side.

In this Jan. 5, 2012 photo, Dominic Poteste, left, and Eric Zemanovic pose before taking HIV tests together at the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago.

Testing Together, now under way in Chicago and Atlanta, takes an unusual approach: It encourages gay male couples to get tested together and hear their results together.

In this Jan. 5, 2012 photo, Dominic Poteste, left, and Eric Zemanovic pose before taking HIV tests together at the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago.

Testing Together, now under way in Chicago and Atlanta, takes an unusual approach: It encourages gay male couples to get tested together and hear their results together. 

.Eric Zemanovic, a dental hygienist, and Dominic Poteste, a restaurant server, had been dating two months after a yearlong friendship. In the past, they'd both practiced safe sex and got regular HIV tests.

Both are in their early 30s. They'd grown up when AIDS meant an early, horrible death. So, whenever they heard about friends testing positive, they felt pangs of fear.

Poteste explained: "There's always an anxiety that comes with getting tested, even though 99 percent of the time I've been safe and been careful, there still is always ..."

His voice trailed off.

"A slight possibility," Zemanovic completed the sentence.

"A slight possibility," Poteste agreed.

Testing Together, now under way in Chicago and Atlanta, takes an unusual approach: It encourages gay male couples to get tested together and hear their results together.

After delivering the results, a counselor talks with the couple about what to do next, including agreements they may want to make with each other about sex and health.

Are we agreeing to be monogamous? Is any sexual activity outside the relationship OK? How are we going to protect each other from infection? Couples address these questions and more.

The idea is to bring honesty to sexual relationships, said one of the researchers behind the program, Rob Stephenson of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta.

Relationships offer only "mythical protection" from HIV, Stephenson said. Some couples may have avoided talking about each other's HIV status, thinking, "If he were HIV positive he would have told me," or "If he wanted to know, he would have asked."

Poteste and Zemanovic, the newly dating Chicago couple, differed in their past approaches. Zemanovic was in the habit of asking his sex partners about their HIV status; he was "neurotic" about it, he said.

Poteste hadn't been as sexually active as his new boyfriend, but he hadn't always asked the questions: Have you been tested? What's your status?

"You have an assumption that if there's something this person could do to potentially hurt me, they would tell me," he said.

Zemanovic hoped getting tested together and discussing results with a counselor would build trust between them.

Poteste hoped the counselor could help them start a conversation so they could ask and answer difficult questions.

It started in Africa more than 20 years ago. Researchers believe couples testing has successfully reduced the spread of AIDS among married, heterosexual couples in some African regions.

One study that looked at couples where one spouse is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative estimated that couples testing was cutting the rate of transmission by more than half.

In Washington, D.C., where the rate of HIV infection rivals some African nations, some community agencies allow couples to test together. Family and Medical Counseling Service Inc. has been testing about 145 couples together annually since 2008. Most are heterosexual couples.

In Chicago and Atlanta, Testing Together, funded by the MAC AIDS Fund, hopes to test 400 couples by the end of the year.
Each participant in Testing Together signs a consent form that addresses receiving counseling, testing and results with a partner in the same room at the same time with a trained counselor: "I hereby consent to allow my partner to know the results of my HIV test," it begins.

The program challenges conventional practices in the United States, where HIV testing is usually private and for individuals only. At most other clinics, a man who asks if his partner can be there when he hears his test result is denied because of patient confidentiality concerns.

There are two trends fueling Testing Together. One, the number of gay Americans telling the U.S. Census they're living with same-sex partners nearly doubled in the past decade, to about 650,000 couples. About half those same-sex partnerships are gay men.

What's more, a new line of research suggests that up to 68 percent of new HIV infections in gay men come from a main sex partner, not from casual sex, in part because main sex partners are more likely to forgo condoms.

Counselors are trained on how to deliver test results, with particular emphasis on how to tell partners the most difficult news: one partner has the virus and the other doesn't.

With these so-called "HIV discordant" couples, counselors have a great opportunity to reduce the spread of the virus by helping the couple learn ways to protect the uninfected partner, primarily through correct and consistent condom use.

Counselors are trained to dispel myths. If the couple thinks the test result means one partner has been unfaithful, the counselor might point out that the infected partner could have acquired HIV before the partner became a couple.

If the couple believes the virus is "sleeping" and can't be transmitted, the counselor might explain that HIV can be transmitted even if there are no signs or symptoms.

If the couple believes their status is proof that precautions aren't needed, the counselor might explain that HIV could be transmitted in the future as the infected partner's virus levels rise.

Sam Hoehnle is a counselor in the Chicago program. "It never becomes easier emotionally" to deliver the news to an HIV discordant couple, Hoehnle said. He tells the HIV negative partner his results first, then spends more time and attention on the HIV positive partner.

He's seen partners support each other, but he acknowledges he can't read minds. A show of compassion could mask anger or fear.

"You don't know what's happening internally, in their heads, about how they're feeling about each other," he said.

Read the rest

Friday, November 18, 2011

Black and Latino MSM Identity and HIV Risk

via Poz, by Trenton Straube

New research uncovers mistaken assumptions fueling HIV rates among black and Latino men who have sex with men (MSM).

The belief that having sex with someone of your own race lowers your risk of contracting HIV is a misperception that needs to be addressed among black and Latino men who have sex with men (MSM).

What’s more, health care workers are missing opportunities to test this population for HIV—even when the men are engaged in care and disclose their sexuality to their doctors.

These are just two findings of research looking at black and Latino MSM who are HIV positive but unaware of their status. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 53 percent of new HIV cases in the United States are among MSM and that 54 percent of these MSM are black and Latino.

In addition, HIV-positive black and Latino MSM are less likely than their white counterparts to know their status—which is one factor that amplifies HIV rates among these populations.

To explore these dynamics, researchers led by Gregorio A. Millett, MPH, the CDC/HHS Liaison to the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), analyzed data from 1,208 MSM (597 black and 611 Latino) who participated in studies in Los Angeles, New York City and Philadelphia.

Eleven percent of them (18 percent black, 5 percent Latino) turned out to be HIV positive but unaware of their status (referred to as “HIV-positive unaware”).

Researchers found that certain variables were more common among the MSM in this group.

For example:

Black HIV-positive unaware MSM were associated with:

•Gay identity
•Earning a moderately higher income
•Having health insurance
•Disclosing sexuality to current health care provider
•Fewer than three lifetime HIV tests
•High perceived risk of testing HIV positive
•Belief that sex with other black men reduces HIV risk

Latino HIV-positive unaware MSM were associated with:

•Nongay identity
•High perceived risk of currently being HIV positive
•Belief that sex with other Latino men reduces HIV risk

POZ spoke with Millett, who arrived at ONAP via the CDC, about the implications of these findings, which were printed in the September Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes in an article titled “Mistaken Assumptions and Missed Opportunities: Correlates of Undiagnosed HIV Infection Among Black and Latino Men Who Have Sex With Men.”

We also asked Millett how his team in DC might use the data as they implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

Read the rest

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Positive" Side of Living with HIV/AIDS

via HuffingtonPost Black Voices

In its 30 year history, few (if any) positive aspects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic have made the spotlight, but advances in treatment and a new study are aiming to turn that around and to demonstrate to HIV/AIDS patients that they can still have a high quality of life while undergoing treatment.

The AIDS Treatment for Life International Study (ATLIS) collected information about treatment awareness from more than 2,000 patients across 12 countries, the largest patient survey of its kind.

"We were able to, for the first time ... garner an understanding of what that patient goes through from a treatment perspective, but also from a personal perspective," says Lindsay Deefholts of Cohn & Wolfe, one of the companies involved in the research.

"We didn't want to just uncover the negatives associated with this disease. There are a whole lot of positives that we were able to learn about with these findings," Deefholts says.

"It actually gave a lot of hope and it was something to celebrate ... there's a lot of good that's also happening."

One result of the findings is the first-ever set of treatment guidelines for HIV, which have yet to be released by the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers from the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, or IAPAC, which sponsored the study, also cited new treatment options with fewer side effects, in an effort to strengthen communication between doctors and patients when it comes to adherence to medication and the long-term benefits patients can experience as a result.

The findings also revealed the need for more individualized treatment and greater focus on co-morbidities, which refer to the other health conditions that can be exacerbated by HIV or its treatments, such as heart disease, stroke or kidney failure.

"It's great that HIV clinicians are focusing on antiretroviral therapies and patients are doing so much better," Renslow Sherer, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and member of the ATLIS team, told the Chicago Tribune when the study findings were presented last year.

 "But people are now dying from heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease and stroke ... We just want to make sure that both patients and doctors treating people with HIV don't just focus on the T-cells," he says.

See the video here

Friday, September 23, 2011

Conversion [lucky to know]

This is the first in a wonderful new series of intensely personal posts via the CROWOLF blog that we are delighted to share with our LifeLube family. As CROWOLF explains, "this is the first of a series of articles that Marc will be writing for my site on his recent conversion to being HIV positive.  Finding out this information can be a life changing event, and it’s not difficult at all to find yourself thrown into the deep end of the pool and unable to tread water.  Everything from finding a medical service provider, learning the in’s and outs of being covered under the Ryan White Care Act, a medical regiment, and having “the chat” with your partner that you’re positive can be overwhelming. Marc feels that sharing this new path he’s on will have a two-fold positive impact: he’ll be able to sort things out in his own head as he writes things down, and maybe someone reading this change in his life will benefit from realizing they’re not alone." 
by Marc Alexander (not his real name)

There is no good way to find out that you are HIV positive, but how I found out was particularly bad. It was early in the morning on Friday September 1st. I had just gotten home from dropping my mom off at U-Haul where she was picking up a truck that would take my furniture down to my new apartment. It had been three and a half months since I had graduated from college and I had recently finished my second week of graduate classes. I was looking forward to my birthday only a few months away. I had just let the movers hired to pack the truck into the apartment to survey what needed to be moved and we were simply waiting for my mom to come home. I had lost my keys and gotten a loan refund check in the mail from my grad school. That was when my doctor called.

I had known in the back of my mind that something was up when I didn’t get a quick negative from my tests. My doctor didn’t know if I had already moved to my new place, so he broke his established protocol and told me over the phone instead. I had known that there was something strange going on with my blood work because it had been almost five days since I got tested and I hadn’t heard back yet. Normally I get the all-clear call within two days. I had become a bit worried, but I had just pushed it to the back of my mind. The fear came flooding back, however, when I heard my doctor on the phone.

He told me that the test was back and the results were not good. When he said that, it felt like something heavy had fallen from my head deep into my gut. Like an elevator crashing. I immediately responded, “Oh god, what do I have?” I was impatient to hear it, in a way, and frightened to death of what the results were. I ran through in my head the full list of STDs I had been tested for and their symptoms and treatments. I was less concerned about HIV than I was ones that could actually cause huge immediate problems. My biggest fear was syphilis. But in the mere moments before my doctor spoke again, I had managed to worry about everything.

Then it came: “You tested positive for HIV.”

I remember that moment with vivid clarity, can still feel everything I felt. The chairs had all been taken outside for the movers to put in the truck, I couldn’t sit down. I stumbled a bit. It felt like a thin slit had been cut below my chest, between the bottom of my ribs, and someone was slowly and methodically pulling my intestines through. It honestly felt like something was being pulled from my body. I pressed my hand to where the sensation was coming from and entered the denial stage of grief. My first thought was that I was dreaming, but I knew that wasn’t true. Then I began to question if it was a false positive, but I had my blood drawn and a Western Blot test done, something I have never known to be wrong. I felt crippled and like my entire life had shrunk down to keeping my composure and trying to stay clear while on the phone with my doctor. I asked him questions I already knew the answer to, but I had started to doubt everything I knew about HIV.

My doctor wanted me to come in that day and see him, but I had a busy day of moving before me and my mom had walked in the door. Seeing her walk in was a reminder that there were other people who were going to be affected by my conversion. I knew I was going to have to be strong and not let the news cripple me. I would have my break down later, but my mom needed me to be strong and help with the move. She needed me to keep it together. But she also needed to know in case I broke down during the move. She needed to know so that she could help me deal with the news.

My mom and I walked outside away from the movers and I told her I had just been diagnosed as HIV positive. Understandably, her first reaction was, “What?” But the second thing she said to me was, “Thank god you get tested as often as you do.”

Somehow my mom had said the very thing that I needed to hear at that moment. Earlier that summer she had been surprised at my habit of getting tested every three months, thinking it was a little excessive, but now she was praising me for doing so, for being brave enough to know. She helped me realize something very important in that moment. I am lucky to know, and I am happy to know. I’m not happy to have converted, but I am better off knowing the truth. I know the fear of the virus that can cripple people. Plenty of people will say that they don’t care what their status is, but that isn’t true. They do care; they are just frightened of the answer. But now that I know, I can be sure that I take precautions in my life. I can protect myself from opportunistic infections and stop myself from spreading the virus. A lot of the reason for the spread of HIV is lack of testing and education about testing. As far as I know, everyone I had sex with in the past six months knew their status, and knew their status was negative. Clearly one of them was either lying or doesn’t know. That means whoever infected me could be infecting others and getting sicker and sicker, all because they don’t know.

I am happier knowing. Now I know what I have to do and I can get on top of the virus. I have the tools in front of me and the support I need. I can do what needs to be done. I’m lucky. How many people are there now who are untested and don’t know what is happening to their immune system? It is frightening to think that something could be breaking you down without you being aware. I know, and I can use that fear to fuel my drive to live.

To be continued….

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Safety Spectrum: Negotiating Strategies and HIV Risk

The vast majority of gay men, HIV-positive and negative, make some effort to moderate their risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV, Dr Limin Mao of the University of New South Wales in Australia told the Tenth AIDS Impact conference.

The results of three annual surveys show that the decisions faced by gay men are much more complex than the decision whether or not to use a condom.

Choices range in terms of the likely degree of protection from HIV they offer: from avoiding sex or anal sex altogether to at least avoiding unprotected anal sex with someone known to have the opposite HIV status.

Using condoms 100% of the time for anal sex is still the most popular single strategy, the study found, but only a third of HIV-negative men and a quarter of HIV-positive men now do this.

Taken as a whole, strategies involving basing whether to have unprotected anal sex on a partner's HIV status (serosorting) are now at least as popular as consistent condom use.

The study found a clear difference between serosorting practices according to participants' HIV status. The second most popular safer-sex strategy for HIV-negative men was to restrict unprotected sex to an HIV-negative regular partner – a strategy that has been called 'negotiated safety'.

HIV-positive men were less likely to restrict unprotected sex solely to their primary partner; instead the most popular strategies were to limit unprotected anal sex, both with regular and casual partners, to other HIV-positive partners – or at least to try and exclude having it with regular and casual partners not known to be HIV positive.

The study involved three successive Gay Community Periodic Surveys which took place in eight metropolitan locations in Australia between 2007 and 2009.  Before now, national and international surveys have asked gay men whether they use condoms and, more recently, about their and their partners' HIV status.

But this survey also asked whether, in the previous six months, the respondents' safer-sex behaviour was different between regular or casual partners; and it divided the HIV-positive men into those with an undetectable and detectable viral load.

One hundred per cent condom use was still the most popular strategy, but a minority one, being practised by 33.8% of the HIV-negative men, 25.5% of HIV-positive men with an undetectable viral load and 22.5% of HIV-positive men with a detectable viral load.

Read the rest


Monday, September 12, 2011

"A Day with HIV in America" Take Your Best Shot!

via PRNewswire

Positively Aware magazine sponsors 2nd annual photo essay to be published in Nov/Dec 2011 issue

Whether you're HIV negative or positive, live with HIV or care for someone with HIV, Positively Aware, is asking people to share their stories through the lens of a camera on one, single day, September 21.

The second annual A Day with HIV in America will capture the collective portrait of those living with HIV to help remove the stigma of HIV and to advance a community of care and support.

Positively Aware, a leading magazine devoted to HIV treatment, is inviting people across America to snap a digital photograph at any time over the course of Wednesday, September 21.

Participants can record a portrait, time with friends and family at work or play, or any moment in the day that helps the world better understand how HIV affects their lives. Photos are to be submitted by September 26 on the A Day with HIV in America web site.

Follow A Day with HIV in America's Facebook page or on Twitter @A_Day_With_HIV to see updates and selected photographs, and to share the site and its vision with friends to help spread the word.

"We're asking all Americans affected by HIV to share with all of us an image of their life living with HIV," said Jeff Berry, editor of Positively Aware.

"Their vantage points captured over a single day will create a rich photographic tapestry of hope, strength and support that will help tear away the stigma of living with HIV in America today."

The final photos selected for the photo essay of A Day with HIV in America will be announced in October 2011 and will be published in the November/December issue of Positively Aware magazine.

 Positively Aware will also premiere the photos at the U.S. Conference on AIDS, November 10-13 in Chicago, Ill.

To learn more about this year's project, see last year's winners and to make your photo submission, visit, A Day with HIV in America.
Read the rest.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why Shaine Wynsma Rides [a "How are you healthy?" special feature]

Does riding 200-miles in two-days make you a healthier person? Perhaps. Does riding 200-miles in two-days to improve someone else’s life make you a healthier person? Maybe. Health is so much more than physical. Mental, spiritual, and emotional health is a part of staying “healthy”.  The choices we make in our lives contribute to the overall health and happiness we experience. Below is one of several stories from participants of an annual event called the Ride for AIDS Chicago. The Ride for AIDS Chicago is a two-day, 200-mile charity cycling event that raises money for Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) and partner agencies. TPAN and the partner agencies that benefit from the Ride for AIDS Chicago provide direct service to those living with HIV and help prevent the spread of the virus through information dissemination, HIV testing, and education.

It started with a Life List.

One of the items on that list I put down was to do a ride or marathon. I am not much of a runner, but I love, love, love to bike. So a ride it had to be. I had only heard about the ride in California and that is what I had set my sights on. I was at the doctors for a routine check up and my doctor told me about the TPAN ride and said that I would have no problem doing it.
I got a bike from Ebay. Raised some money and learned more about TPAN and their programs. The Ride at that time was roughly 180 miles. I managed to do it with no clips, on a heavy mountain bike. I don’t even think I had padded shorts.
“All you have to do is pedal,” is what I kept on telling myself. 
Mile after mile, hill after hill and the second I crossed the finish line, I wanted to do it again.

A couple of months before that ride, I found out a really good friend of mine, Greg Fanning, had passed away. He was found in his apartment alone. Greg had a great soul, provided lots of laughs and had an amazing talent of rehabbing wood furniture.
He had his share of demons he was dealing with. He wasn’t very familiar with TPAN's support programs for those dealing with HIV. I was one of a few people that he could relate too. From then on, there was/is an additional element to the Ride, other than the personal and physical challenge.

I can’t help to wonder that if Greg was more aware of TPAN and what they could have provided him, if he would still be around today, making me laugh uncontrollably and amazing me with his ability to magically turn an old rocking chair or nicked up table into a stunning piece of art. For that year, 2007, I rode in his name.

That is why Shaine rides, to make sure the doors stay open at TPAN and people are aware of the programs there, so the art and laughter stay alive, which is tops on my Life List.

-- Shaine Wynsma

How are you healthy?
Please join the hundreds who have shared their tips.

Tell us HERE. Send a pic to the same place.
And we'll blog it, right here on LifeLube.
Gay men and all allies welcome to participate.

Read past posts.
Learn more about the campaign

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dance For Life Sparks Reflections on His First Anniversary

This week marks the one-year anniversary of my infection with HIV. I have given some thought and prayer on how I should mark this anniversary.  

Should I even celebrate the anniversary?

Should I not think the marking of it as a celebration at all – especially since it includes feelings of sadness, loss, anger, but then there are also feelings of much gratitude and hope…?

Should I celebrate alone or with others?

Saturday night I attended the 20th Anniversary Performance of Chicago's “Dance for Life” event. It was a beautiful and powerful performance by committed artists and dancers who believe in and support our fight to end AIDS. As the celebration began, the CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago announced that it was not only the 20th anniversary of the “Dance for Life”, but also the 6-month anniversary of his becoming the CEO and more importantly the 17th year of being infected and living with the virus. People applauded wildly after he announced the 20th year for the event; but it came obvious that many did not know how to respond to the announcement of the anniversary of his infection 17 years ago. A few in the large audience applauded but many remained silent with most of them, I am sure, pondering how to respond to such an announcement – the anniversary of someone’s infection with HIV/AIDS.

How should I mark MY one-year anniversary and should I identify it as a celebration? Should I mark it alone or with others, at least with one or two who know and offer me much support in my life with HIV? As I lay awake on my bed at 4am Sunday morning, those questions entered the deeper part of my heart, mind and spirit.

I certainly experience much, much gratitude for the medication and medical attention I have been able to receive over the past year. I take daily medication that is keeping my viral load undetectable and CD4 count at a very normal and healthy level. It is very expensive medication and medical treatment, yet my work health insurance plan makes it possible. I am also especially grateful that our health insurance companies in this country can no longer deny me coverage for having a “pre-existing” illness in case I were to switch employment.

The gratitude, however, is mixed with much sorrow, sadness and often anger since there are so many of my fellow life travelers living with HIV/AIDS who do not have this access to medication and healthcare. In our country, which is the wealthiest in the world, many go without medications or easy access to care, and in the world many are still dying of a disease that is no longer fatal if one is provided with medications and medical attention.

My anger especially flares up when I hear so many people, mostly out of ignorance and close-mindedness, oppose expanding health insurance for infected individuals living with the virus (and all others who need it) through our recently adopted health care reform. I am glad “Obama cares” enough for us and millions others in our country who need to know they will now be able see a doctor and get needed medications, especially when they are in pain or worried about their health.

I have always tried to take good care of my body through a healthy diet, sufficient exercise and adequate sleep. During the past year this approach to taking care of my body took special significance. The medications and treatment cannot on their own keep me healthy as my body fights the virus on a daily basis. And so this week I am also grateful for the opportunities I have to keep my body fit and healthy. I have access to a gym, nutritious food, and a decent and safe house where I can rest and take care of myself. I have them because I have a good job that allows me such opportunities.

But again anger flares up in my heart and gut when I consider the many who do not have these opportunities today, especially a home or a job that allows them to take care of themselves and their chronic illnesses. As the rich keep getting richer in our nation and the poor and middle class lose more and more income on a yearly basis, homes and jobs seem to become much less available to many among us.

Finally, should I celebrate the experience that I nowadays have of having somewhat befriended the virus that lives within my body? I wish with all my heart it did not live there or in the bodies of any human being in this world. Yet it is there. And until researchers find the cure for HIV/AIDS, it will continue to be an intimate part of my body and life. I am reminded of that every day as I take my $50-a-day pill to keep the virus undetectable in my blood stream.

In a year’s time I have learned how to accept that I am HIV positive and to see opportunities for growth as a person, especially in hospitality and compassion. 

I have worked for a number of years in the field that fights against AIDS and supports those living with the virus. But nowadays I have much more solidarity in heart and mind with them. I am one of them and with them today.

I have always tried to practice hospitality and compassion because of my spiritual faith. When persons are hospitable, they “makes room” in their lives for others. And there are so many ways to do so with persons living with the virus: by sharing our resources for the fight against AIDS like so many did last night at the 2011 Dance for Life event; or supporting directly infected individuals and families with much personal care and love; or not judging or stigmatizing them out of ignorance; or by working actively and politically for the resources and opportunities sick people need to remain healthy. I have always tried to practice hospitality in my life; but now that the virus lives within me, I am all the more committed to “making room” in my life for those who travel through this life with the virus in their bodies.

I learned a long time ago that truly compassionate persons are those that know how to suffer with others. The very word compassion comes from the Latin words to “suffer” (passus) and “with” (cum).

My spiritual faith has allowed and supported me to suffer with others in my life over the years. But now that the virus lives within me, I can accompany those infected by HIV/AIDS in a much stronger and closer way. I have and I am dealing with the fear, the anxiety, and the worries that this virus could one day compromise my immune system that keeps us humans alive and healthy. But I also share much more closely the hope and the dreams with other persons living with HIV/AIDS. Nowadays we may be able to live until an old age and enjoy life to its fullest. After the one year, I am all the more compassionate since I can suffer and hope much more closely with my fellow HIV positive life travelers.

Maybe one day before I die, the virus will leave my body through some type of cure. But until it does, I am learning to live with it. It is an unwelcomed friend. But it is a friend since it is making me a more hospitable and compassionate person in this life.

I guess I can celebrate the one year anniversary of my infection.

-- Thoughts from a Chicagoan living with HIV

[pics by ed negron. check out the rest on the lifelube facebook page]

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sex Toy Story

via POZ ,By Trenton Straube

A new survey reveals that HIV-positive men who have sex with men lead vibrant, and sometimes vibrating, sex lives.

It’s not every day that we come across HIV-related research that explores health-promoting sexual behaviors. So when we came across the article “USA Study of Sex Toy Use by HIV-Positive Men Who Have Sex With Other Men: Implications for Sexual Health” in the International Journal of STD & AIDS, we wanted to know more.

Conducted by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University in collaboration with Online Buddies Inc., the survey included 2,275 HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM). Participants were recruited from and spanned the United States; most were white (83 percent), Latino (7 percent) or black (4 percent).

The survey set out to look at sex toy use and its implications for health among positive MSM. It found that 70 percent of participants reported using at least one sex toy in the past year, including dildos (49 percent), butt plugs (31 percent), vibrators (28 percent), masturbation sleeves (17 percent) and anal beads or balls (16 percent). And 31 percent reported using toys in the previous four weeks. White men were more likely to use toys, and men in sexually active relationships were more likely to use toys than those not in such relationships.

Read more.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Debt deal could jeopardize HIV/AIDS funds

via Washington Blade, By Chris Johnson

The resolution of the debt ceiling negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders has HIV/AIDS advocates concerned that federal funds for prevention and drug initiatives could be on the chopping block as a result of the agreement.

The agreement — which enables President Obama to raise the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion and eliminates the need for another increase until 2013 — also requires a total of nearly $2.5 trillion in spending cuts to reduce the federal deficit, which could affect federally funded HIV/AIDS programs.

Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, said any cuts to federal spending as a result of the deal will likely “impact HIV programs in a negative way.”

“There will be less money to go around and it will be more competition over that smaller amount of funding,” Schmid said. “And there can be direct cuts to our programs particularly if they are taken across the board. Not going in the right direction if we are going to end AIDS let alone prevent new infections and provide care and treatment to people with HIV/AIDS.”

All federal funding of discretionary HIV/AIDS programs could see an impact as a result of the decision, Schmid said, including the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and AIDS research programs. Additionally, Schmid said AIDS Drug Assistance Programs could be cut and already lengthy wait lists to receive medication through this program could be extended.

“It’s going to be harder and harder to make the case for our programs, but, hopefully, Congress will be receptive to our voices and concerns about the importance of preventing HIV in our country and to provide care and treatment for people who are HIV positive,” Schmid said.

Read more. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

He likes it r-w

By Sapphire

Kel and I dated for three months. We met on the subway where he ran after me to tell me how beautiful I was. He was impressive but I wasn’t prepared drama that tagged along.

Kel and I were not compatible. We fought all the time and were completely disrespectful to one another.  There were times when I couldn’t even look at him.  He would buy me something nice to make up for arguments or fights. He thought it would make me happier.-9 times out of ten..It did.

At the time, sex wasn’t a major need for me. I was trying to escape an oversexed lifestyle and having sex with Kel, wasn’t the best idea. There were days when I had sex with three people in a row! A little out of control I know! 

We were a serodiscordant couple (I am HIV positive and he was HIV negative) and my health was very important to me. I thought with Kel, I could turn a new leaf but that was not the case.

Kel LOVED sex. He bugged all the time about sex and the sex he was into was not healthy. Bottom line, Kel was the “raw-topping” type of guy. He never refused to use condoms but there were times when the condom would come off

 It was a pleasure rush but sometimes a headache. It really messed with my head. Why would a HIV negative man want to risk his life contracting HIV from someone he barely knows? It didn’t add up to me. We had discussions about it that went nowhere. He would say “Don’t stress about it” and it really confused me. There were moments when I felt he was lying about his status. Does he know how HIV is affecting gay men today? Was he trying to get infected? Is he ready to live with the virus?

After much reflection, I broke up with him. I couldn’t keep putting his life or mine in danger. I followed up with my doctor about my behavior and got myself checked out. Everything was fine and I felt like I dodged a bullet. I am glad that we communicated about each other’s HIV status but upset we didn’t make healthy choices around that. Understanding that condom negotiation is not easy, I had to develop better about my communication skill for the next guy. Trust me- it’s better now.

Friday, June 24, 2011

HIV positive man claims he was denied medication while jailed

via Chicago Sun-Times

A South Shore man claims he was denied HIV medication for a week while he was imprisoned in a downstate jail last year, a case that advocacy groups cited as an example of a hidden problem in correctional facilities.

Arick Buckles, 39, was detained in the Bureau County Jail in Princeton last fall after learning he was the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant for forgery charges.

Buckles said he “stressed to every jailer I came into contact with” that he was HIV-positive and needed to take antiretroviral medication daily. But he did not receive medication or see a doctor during his weeklong stay at the jail, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a June 20 letter to Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson.

Buckles, who said he experienced severe diarrhea after his release, described his time behind bars as terrifying, because “I didn’t know what the offset of my not having those medications would be.”

“I often wonder, if I had been a diabetic, would I have been denied medication,” he said.

Jail officials allegedly told Buckles they could not give him his medication because of the cost of the drugs, a justification the ACLU letter called “inappropriate and unconstitutional.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Education key in HIV, AIDS prevention, 30 years later

via  The Sun News, By Brad Dickerson                                                                                                                                     Brian Hardee wanted to educate other college students about the importance of getting tested for HIV, so he went through the steps himself and presented it as a series of informative speeches.

No one in his speech class will probably ever forget the last one.

"The final speech was how I took the news after the news came back I was HIV positive. So, that's how I found out," Hardee said. "Let's just say I made a 100 in that speech class."

The Myrtle Beach resident was diagnosed with the disease in 1994 while he was a student at the American College for the Applied Arts in Atlanta.

Today, Hardee considers himself a medical miracle. A combination of strong medication and a lifestyle change that included kicking a 10-year drug habit has given him a healthy immune system and longer life than those who were diagnosed with HIV in its early days.

Experts say these stronger drugs are both a blessing and a curse in 2011, 30 years since the first documented cases of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, in the United States. Those who are diagnosed are living longer, healthier lives, but it's also creating complacency and apathy in the younger people who now find themselves at risk.

The Los Angeles Times reported that AIDS has killed nearly 30 million people worldwide, including an estimated 500,000 in the United States. Today, another 34 million people - including nearly 1.2 million in the U.S. - are living with the virus that causes the disease, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. This year, about 1.8 million of them will die, including about 17,000 in this country.

By the end of 2010, there were 736 known HIV/AIDS patients living in Horry County, according to statistics from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. There are 356 who have AIDS.
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