The Journey

by Jeff Berry

Dear HIV,

It’s been 20 years since we first met in September of 1989. When we first came together, I thought I was going to die! I was so afraid…afraid of what was going to happen to me, my partner, my family. But now, here we are, still together—for better or worse.

You gave me the incentive to face some things in my past, things that I otherwise might not have dealt with, and for that, I am truly grateful. You forced me to take a long, hard look at myself, my lifestyle, and the choices I’ve made about the food and substances I put into my body. And that’s a good thing. I know, I’m not perfect. You, of all viruses, should know that. But then, who is? I decided I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it. Stress just makes you stronger. When I made a mistake, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and moved on.

Once I realized that you weren’t going anywhere, I knew we had to make this work. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t always been easy. It’s been a rocky relationship right from the start. I had a hell of a time finding the right meds to get you under control. In fact, it took me years of hard work, and a lot of trial and error. I was one of the lucky ones who made it—many of my friends didn’t. I miss them. But I had a good doctor who helped me to make informed decisions about my treatment. I learned as much as I could about you, and how the medications work, so that I could partner with my doctor and decide which treatment was best for me.

Every now and then I got depressed, and a lot of times, I got sick from the medications. So I joined a local support group, and found help from connecting with others who were in the same boat. I learned from them that, hey, yeah, it sucks having HIV. But armed with the right information, I was able to persevere, make the necessary adjustments, and get on with my life.

You’re as stubborn as I am, so we might as well get used to the fact we’re both here to stay. Whether we like it or not, we’re in it for the long haul. Nothing lasts forever, but for now, at least, I think we’ve found a way to make it work.

So, here’s to another 20 years.

Not all yours,

JLB

This issue is dedicated to the memory of all those who came before us, those who weren’t able to benefit from the development of treatments that are now more effective, easier to take, and have fewer side effects than some of the first medications that were approved.

In this issue of Positively Aware you’ll read about how the immune system functions, and how the medications work to interrupt the replication process at different points in the virus lifecycle. We’ve also included articles on nutrition, exercise, and the financial aspects of HIV, because we all know there is more to living with HIV than just learning about the mechanics.

HIV is also about personal stories. In our profile of Jack Mackenroth on page 14, the Project Runway star talks about his journey with HIV, and his campaign to help educate others. During the course of interviewing Jack, I was struck by many of the similarities in our stories. I too remember the day I tested positive, the doctor’s demeanor, how the room looked, looking up at the sky after I left his office. Thinking how my life would never be the same. I also realized that there are probably thousands of stories just like ours, stories filled with anger, despair, fear, hopelessness…as well as stories of hope, encouragement, inspiration, and about finding the strength and the courage to overcome the challenges we all must learn to face while coming to terms with our own mortality.

And finally, speaking of mortality, alas, all good things must come to an end. Our dear Jim Pickett, author of the popular Pickett Fences column, has decided to take a break from writing his column (gotcha!). But don’t worry, he’s not going anywhere. He’ll still be contributing to Positively Aware magazine, beginning with the November/December issue, in which he’ll give us an update on microbicides and recent developments in prevention from the IAS conference in Cape Town, South Africa this past July.

Until then, don’t forget to laugh, never be afraid to cry, and above all, try not to take yourself too seriously. Remember to think of the management of HIV as a means, and not an end. It’s the journey, not the destination.

Take care of yourself, and each other.


Jeff Berry, Editor
publications@tpan.com

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