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Virus Awareness: 30 years to stopping HIV

    Back in the 1980s, as the vice-administrator for Operation Snowball, we taught high schoolers about the risks of many things in our lives, from anything from caffeine and nicotine to alcohol to drugs. It was an outlet to share your problems in an open environment, and it taught you about dangers that you might not even be aware of yet.. like AIDS.
    In the 1990s, seeing what actually contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) until the AIDS virus attacked their immune system, made me want to share any news about this acquired immunodeficiency syndrome to help anyone infected — and to help remind people how to protect themselves.
    I even wrote the fictional epic novel “The Key to Believing” about drug company scientists looking for medicines to find a cure, or at least a vaccine, released in 2002.
    And I know what this virus can do to the body. And I know historically how drug cocktails, which were insanely expensive, seemed only designed to help lengthen the body’s ability to fight infections — since the AIDS?virus killed their host’s immune system. There is a lot about this one virus that seems so ugly, so horrific, and so unfair, so if I couldn’t do anything personally to make this virus go away, I could hopefully let cc&d be a place where people could learn more about it — in an effort to help themselves and other people.
    But over the past 15 years, I have heard a lot about making efforts to fight: breast cancer. And stop heart disease. But more than that, what I heard more of was television advertisements talking about what new drugs were out there so you could help yourself with an assortment of ailments. Keytruda may work with your immune system to help fight cancer cells. Invokana® is used for the treatment of type-2 diabetes. Prilosec or Prevacid can be taken regularly so you never get heartburn (editor’s note: stop eating food that is really bad for you, and you might not get heartburn). Don’t forget your medications for Erectile Dysfunction: Cialis, Viagra, Levitra (or a double-digit list of more choices for you men who can’t get it up).
    It seems that Americans now want to look for a a pill that might get them out of the trouble they are into now in their lives.?And the thing is, I’ve noticed this influx of medications for real and imagines health problems, but I have heard nothing about medical research for HIV and AIDS.
    The other day a commercial started for another drug and I thought, oh great, what is this one about, so I started to tune out. And they said they were on the pill, Truvada, but women weren’t taking this pill, so I had to stop. The ad didn’t say much, but it sounded like a pill for people not infected with HIV or AIDS to potentially help stop them from getting HIV.
    Of course, the ad talked about making safe and smart choices throughout your life anyway, but I really wondered: if this really the vaccine on the horizon for truly combating HIV?and AIDS.
    Yes, I have had a lot on my plate since the new millennium, so I could understand that if I wasn’t actively looking for these reports I could easily miss them. Now over these past years, HIV and AIDS have gone from an acute fatal disease to a chronic, manageable condition (which I am grateful about for my friends with AIDS). But there isn’t a cure yet, which, like many people, makes me want to somehow continue helping battle AIDS.
    All I do remember thinking over these years that people are looking for all sorts of pills to help them with any problem that can think of in our bodies, but I hear nobody talking about making an effort to help this very sinister virus — that is so ugly, so horrific, and so unfair. But as I said, if I wasn’t actively looking for these reports I suppose I could easily miss them.
    And maybe that should change.
    Now, unlike my 1996 and 1997 issues of cc&d (where we could afford the space to reprint “AIDS?watch” stories), we don’t have space to reporting news articles you can find online. So let me share a few web links with you, and let’s be proud of the massive progress we’ve made. Think of it: it’s amazing that a 20-year old with HIV can have a life expectancy of 70 — because few diseases have seen this much progress in such a short time.
    So let’s keep fighting the good fight.


Janet Kuypers©
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Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
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