By Jeannie Wraight
HIV antiretrovirals have given most people with HIV a reprieve from the devastation of AIDS. Those diagnosed in the U.S. in the 21st century were spared if their doctor was knowledgeable and up to date. The ‘get your affairs in order’ speeches and the reality of ‘you are going to die with HIV’ were quickly setting in. The few of us who were sick or had friends with AIDS will ever forget the Lazarus effect of HAART literally raising people from their deathbeds.
Unfortunately, along with the conversion from dying with HIV to living with HIV, we experienced complacency after the approval of HAART that had far reaching implications. When the dying stopped so did the fight for new, more tolerable, less toxic therapies. Now, in 2014, despite all the medical and scientific advances made in HIV over the past 15 years, some of us are once again facing our own mortality. We are once again dying, not from the once common opportunistic infections associated with AIDS, but from HIV related illnesses that are slowly destroying our bodies. We became satisfied with HAART and stopped demanding better drugs. More importantly, up until a few years ago, stopped searching for a cure. Whether it’s 90 people out of 100 or 10 people out of 100, we are still dying.
For some of us our kidneys, hearts and livers now fail us after a decade or more on HAART. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Just like in the late 80’s and early 90’s when people with HIV and our allies fought for drugs to stay alive, we need to fight for new drugs and federal funding to develop new classes of drugs and functional cures.
HAART gave us time. Many of us will live for another 20, 30, 40+ years. But not all of us. Some of us are succumbing to the damaging effects of daily HAART and the still lingering effects of HIV, inflammation and immune activation. One by one, these deaths are quiet and go unpublicized. There is no mass raise in death rate. There will be no outcry. AIDS in the U.S. no longer takes us in droves. We are dying quieter deaths but have no doubt, we are still dying.
Get involved, learn, ask questions, fight. Together we can stop HIV from taking more lives. Together we can help ensure a cure is found. Together, we can truly LIVE with HIV.