I never expected to be writing blog posts on The Huffington Post. For that matter, 20 years ago I couldn't envision living openly as a gay man.
I feel that it is important to clarify what I am not! No federal agency, private health care group, or any gay organization provides support to me at any level. I do own stock in Gilead, the manufacturer of Truvada, Atripla, and a few other products; this I did for two reasons: (1) to make some cash (the stock is up over 80-percent in six months), and (2) so that next year I can go to the stock holders' meeting and ask pointed questions.
I am a highly educated man who, late in life, came out and contracted HIV. Over the last 10 years I have facilitated workshops in Provincetown and run support groups for Whitman Walker in D.C. I can write about drug trials because I was a part of the trials for the only HIV drug to enter Phase III. As a sexually active single male, I am quite familiar with several Internet sites. I write from these experiences. I also read extensively and, quarterly, question my doctors extensively on HIV and health-related issues.
My intention in blogging here is to present another way of looking at reducing HIV infections, given that all data indicate that current approaches are not working. I intend to propose new (some would say "radical") solutions so that we can begin an honest, open dialog and put together a more focused approach to ending HIV as a health concern.
I challenge any health organization out there to show me a yearly plan that has any metric demonstrating a reduction of infections other than the number of HIV tests performed and the number of condoms distributed. And the infections continue along with the epidemic year after year.
I am well aware that the gay community is suffering from condom fatigue, HIV drug fatigue, and statistic fatigue.
If there were public awareness and an interest in stopping HIV, the current statistics would be intolerable, and there would be a public outcry as there was against Vietnam. And there would be groups like ACT UP acting on behalf of everyone in the U.S. to end HIV.
If we consider HIV as a war with casualties:
- 50,000 new infections a year (consider these war-wounded)
- 18,000 AIDS-related deaths a year
- A reserve of HIV infection that continues to grow at, say, 50,000 individuals a year (one in five does not know that he or she is infected)
Over 10 years, that's 500,000 wounded, 180,000 dead and a cost to the U.S. economy of over $50 billion a year. Of course, the entire epidemic is largely invisible, because the wounded do not look any different from any other individual who doesn't have HIV, and almost no one talks about his or her HIV status!
Now, can anyone demonstrate that our current approach is working? We have reached what appears to be an acceptable status quo.
I do not understand the failure of the gay health organizations and the government to morph from AIDS to HIV.
And could it be that all the gay magazines have been bought by pharmaceutical company advertising? If you are going to run these ads for revenue, at least accompany them with real information about why you never want to get on these HIV meds. Stay negative!
I have the time and limited resources and am looking forward to, week after week, putting together a blog post to challenge thinking. I know that I do not have all the answers, nor do I have the medical background to understand all the nuances. That is not my objective.
My goal is to develop a pragmatic approach that creates buy-in for the gay community, the government funding organizations and the gay (and straight) health centers so that, perhaps in five years, this can end.
I have very strong opinions based on my experiences, and I trust and hope that you will have some too. I look forward to being challenged, because this has to be a dialogue and a debate that is inclusive of all ideas as we find a way out of this morass and move forward.