Living with HIV not easy

Bill Weintraub

Bill Weintraub

Living with HIV not easy


I am living with HIV, but it's not easy

By Jane Elliott

BBC News health reporter

6 August 2006

Living today with HIV

Rob Dawson is a man on a mission - to make his life count.

Two-years ago Rob was diagnosed with HIV and he says that, since then, his life has changed.

"I have a different outlook on things.

"I feel better for knowing my status and I'm making so much more of my life than I was before.

"I think about where I'll be in 15 years, not in a bad way but in a good way. I want to have done something."

But 25 years ago when HIV/Aids first came to light things were very different for those newly diagnosed.

I sometimes panic that I have not fulfilled all my goals -- Rob Dawson

Doctors first noticed the HIV among homosexual men in the US. There was little that could be done to help those with the virus.

It was another 10 years before the introduction of effective anti-HIV treatments - making living with virus a long-term reality.

[It wasn't 10 years -- it was 15 years.

The first cases of AIDS were reported in 1981; HAART did not become available until early 1996.

The BBC used to be known for accuracy in reporting.

Clearly that is no longer the case.]

Now, the National Aids Manual (NAM) has produced a book 'Living with HIV', which tackles key topics such as diagnosis, treatment, working, sex, mother-to-baby transmission and the criminalisation of HIV transmissions.

Dr Mark Nelson, director of HIV services at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, said the picture had definitely changed for people with HIV.

"Twenty-five years ago there were no treatments and it was really a slow death.


In the early days, guys died within six months.

By the time Brett was diagnosed -- 1988 -- you were considered a "long-term survivor" if you lived 18 months.]

"Someone would develop an infection and there was nothing that could be done about it.

"The diagnosis 25-years ago was death, now we can give treatment."

But Dr Nelson said that, although the treatment regimes and outcomes had improved, the drugs still carry toxicity risks.

And he added that those with HIV also carried a greater risk of developing certain cancers and heart problems.

[and brain damage -- I wonder why that was omitted?]


Rob, whose account features in the book, thought he knew when he got his diagnosis what was in store for him.

He works in health public relations, and a close friend was diagnosed at 18.

But he says he found his reaction to the diagnosis a surprise.

"There was a problem emotionally. I have been OK. I had read the literature and it gives you an easy picture, but it is not completely like that.

"My CD4 count - the cells that lead the body's fight against HIV - has been erratic and has never plateaued. I have not yet needed treatment.

"Initially after my diagnosis, I got up and just went to work. But year later it hit me.

"What I hadn't expected were the panic attacks, the nightmares I had and the lack of breath.

"It took a while for me to calm down about it and I am not usually an anxious person.

"These were totally new experiences to me and I was finding it tough.

"Combined with the dermatitis, fatigue and continual stomach bugs I experienced, I felt like I was falling apart.

"It has made a difference to my life. I sometimes panic that I have not fulfilled all my goals and to suddenly panic is a new emotion for me."


Lord Chris Smith, who was diagnosed with HIV 18 years ago, has written the preface to the book.

He explained that it provided a vital tool to HIV positive people.

"In 1988, information - however sketchy - was the key to understanding that being HIV-positive meant.

"Information is still the key today.

"And this book - with its accompanying first-hand accounts of the reality of life with HIV - provides an excellent introduction to the issues which so many of us affected by HIV live with, day-by-day."

For free copies of the book, available to anyone with HIV, telephone NAM on 0207 840 0050

[emphases and expressions of astonishment mine]

Bill Weintraub:

This piece is typical of reporting these days about HIV among gay men in the West -- light and upbeat.

The reporter fudges the facts, and though the doctors warn of toxicity and the patient is already symptomatic, the sense we're given at the end is -- just get the information and you'll be fine.

No one asks just how it is that Rob managed to acquire HIV in 2004 -- a mere twenty years since the mode of transmission was discovered and broadcast to the world;

nor is there any talk of prevention.

Rob does talk about developing panic attacks, nightmares, lack of breath, dermatitis, constant stomach bugs, and fatique;

but by article's close we're told, and by a Lord no less, who's been poz, he says, for 18 years, that "information is the key."

It's a very mixed message, at best.

And then there's the reporter shaving half a decade -- during which in the US, the death rate peaked -- from the time needed to develop an effective treatment.

Doing that suggests that medicine will always be able to handle whatever ails you.

Not true.

But it's the politically-correct, AIDS Inc / ANAL Inc -mandated approach to HIV issues now:

Get tested, and don't worry if you're poz, because after all, accidents happen.

I think Rob got it right the first time: "I had read the literature and it gives you an easy picture, but it is not completely like that."

No kidding.

In the meantime, the NY Times had a long article this week on HIV in South Africa reported by Tina Rosenberg, who also writes a lot of the Times' editorials.

In nine pages about HIV prevention, she gave Uganda *one sentence* in which she said that ABC in Uganda had been successful because it was an open society -- presumably she means about sex, which is NOT TRUE; and because Uganda went at it as though it were "World War Three."

Well, when you stand to lose 30 or 40% of your population, maybe it is World War Three.

And maybe you should act that way.

Instead of endorsing Uganda, Tina endorsed South Africa's lovelife program, which incorporates elements of ABC, but which most observers regard as dicey at best.

Why then did Tina endorse it?

Because it's a condom program, and the Times likes condoms.

Even though no African country has ever succeeded in getting condom use above 5%.

And even though HIV prevalence is highest in those African countries where condom campaigns have been most intense.

Doesn't matter.

In the culture wars, condoms have become proxies for the sexual revolution -- which the Times supports.

It's ironic.

A "sexual aid" which dulls sensation and destroys intimacy is now viewed as essential to preserving the "benefits" of the sexual revolution.

Yet among "heterosexuals," the sexual revolution was about the birth control pill, which gave women the power to avoid pregnancy and men the freedom to throw away their -- condoms.

In the 1970s, condoms were a joke.

And they still are.

Incorrect use + inconsistent use + breakage and slippage + DISINHIBITION --> high rates of HIV prevalence wherever condoms are promoted.

Including among gay males like Rob, another sterling example of the efficacy of the condom code, who at least has the decency to tell us "it is not completely like that."

Bill Weintraub

© All material Copyright 2006 by Bill Weintraub. All rights reserved.

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