Is It Really Just Like Taking a Pill Every Day? [12-17-2015 12:00]

The fact is: there is nothing sexy about having to take a pill every day because your life depends on it. But, there is definitely nothing sexy about not taking those pills if you have to—death is a sad and painful fact of our humanity, and always deep down our instincts have us lust for survival. We are now in the middle of the fourth decade of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and there seems to be battle fatigue.

We are tired of hearing about HIV, tired of worrying, tired of safer sex, tired of taking pills and going to doctors, and still tired of old lingering homophobia. None of us asked for all this, but the day has not come for us to rest our weary heads. At this critical time to ACT UP and fight HIV/AIDS, we cannot surrender to complacency.

Make no mistake: our day will come when this war is won. First, we need a bit of a refreshed perspective. In 2015, there is good news and bad. HIV is not a death sentence. It is, realistically, a life sentence. Yes, you can live with the virus and manage your health. While possible and most are successful, no one is saying it is particularly easy.

It is not just taking a pill every day, as you would, say, take a vitamin at dinnertime. Even if someone can tolerate one of the few single-pill HIV regimens, there are side effects, it can be expensive, and it must be a forever-daily clockwork routine. I think a lot of people fail to realize how complicated it is, and then do not bother themselves with as much concern as they should… until they perhaps test HIV +, or worse yet they are infected but unaware of it. Actually, the really bad news is that 20-30% of people living with HIV do not know it, yet, because they weren’t tested.

Here’s the really good news on two fronts of the battle for an AIDS-free generation. 1) If you are already living with HIV and you were tested so you know it, you can get into care before it progresses to an AIDS diagnosis and perhaps never, even never ever, receive such a diagnosis if you adhere to successful HIV treatment. 2) While the majority of all new HIV cases were transmitted from people unaware of their HIV+ status, those who do know their HIV+ status are 96% less likely to pass the virus to someone else. So, getting people aware of their status and into treatment can lead to significantly less new infections! Hey, let’s face it: prevention is always the very best medicine!

I always cringe when I hear the Old Guard (anyone over 30) say that they “just take a pill” every day and its “no big deal” anymore. That’s relative. I didn’t live through the days of going to funerals every month; that is something I cannot fathom. But I really think it is unintentionally dishonest and does a disservice when the battle-seasoned generation down-plays how serious this disease is: HIV is life-threatening and there is no cure.

Make no mistake that our day shall come: so keep fighting each and every battle by living, by loving, and by “ACTing UP to fight AIDS!” You are never alone in this fight: you can always call us at Thursday’s Child, 631-447-5044 or 631-891-5115.

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