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NEW amfAR PSA/Website Launch: Making AIDS History

August 10, 2011 - amfAR is launching a new website Making AIDS History and Public Service Announcement that gives insight into the personal stories of those whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS, as well as to mark the milestone of 25 years of research that has saved lives and opened the door not only to preventive measures, but also to the ultimate cure.

For 30 years we have struggled with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and millions of men, women and children have put their heart and souls into the fight against AIDS with hope to one day find a cure. The leading cure-focused organization, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, has accelerated advanced research over the last 25 years by bringing researchers together to collaboratively move the needle forward. Five years ago a cure was thought unrealistic, a fantasy, but now amfAR has allowed us to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

The two-minute PSA profiles five individuals and one family with personal stories of hope and progress-emphasizing the impact that the last 25 years of research has made for each person and on the lives of Americans everywhere. In addition to the PSA, the website features longer in-depth interviews with each of the individuals in the PSA. New profiles and stories of the diverse faces fighting on the frontlines to Make AIDS History will be regularly added to the website.

Brief descriptions of the individuals and families featured in the PSA:

  • Christina - Indianapolis
    Christina is a young woman that has been infected with HIV since birth - the first infant to be parentally infected in the Florida Keys region. Christina was given just a few years to live, and her mother, an IV-drug user, died before there was ever an available treatment for HIV. Barely beating the odds and after twelve years fighting sickness - chronically swollen lymph nodes, monthly ear infections and annual bouts of pneumonia - Christina finally started on a path to better health when the FDA approved the first protease inhibitors. However, as a rebellious teenager, Christina chose not to take her medication, which led to an extreme period of illness, a hospitalization and eventually a full-blown AIDS diagnosis. A shock and complete wake-up call, Christina began to turn her life around and go public with her story. She now has a healthy child and has not been hospitalized due to HIV for 10 years.

  • David - Chicago
    I'd like to introduce you to a young man that contracted HIV in a way that so many people do - unprotected sex When David Robertson found out he was HIV-positive, he called one of his ex-partners to break the news. The only words he shared were that he just left the doctor's office when his ex-partner interrupted, "Oh no, man, I thought I was good." Furious, he wished him a good life and got prepared to call his mother whom had already endured an AIDS diagnosis with her other son. After a somewhat surprisingly, semi-relieving short conversation with his mom, he stopped by the liquor store on his way home. After slamming five double Maker's Marks and ginger ales, he felt slightly relieved then in flash of sobriety he realized he still had the disease. Feeling upset, he continued to drink to relieve the pain and eventually made his way to his apartment's balcony. Eleven floors up he looked down on the busy avenue, and thought if he jumped he would be the first black man to jump to his death on this expensive busy street. With one foot on the patio table, he lifted his other and was blown back with a gust of wind - his head slammed into the doorway and he was unconscious for over 14 hours. Needless to say, this knocked some sense into him and the reality was he didn't need to be a victim. Now, David is an empowerment speaker to adolescence and young adults, as well as a reproductive prevention expert for the University of Chicago's Comer Hospital with a motto, H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Evolve).

  • Meredith Family - Louisville
    I'd like to introduce you to a family that has a compelling story to share about their battle with HIV/AIDS and how they are defying the odds and making a difference. Suzan Meredith contracted HIV by having unprotected sex and was not diagnosed until nearly a decade later shortly after the birth of her second child. Luckily her husband remains negative, but both of her children contracted the disease, which the chances of passing it to offspring are less than 2 percent. Suzan endured watching her five-year-old waste away to weigh a mere 31 pounds, while her newborn son lay hooked to a respirator unable to breathe. Fearful that she may lose her children, she experienced a miracle when Protease Inhibitor drugs began to pump the life back into her kids. With kids healthy, Suzan and her family began to look forward with a mission to help others. Suzan always wanted to adopt children, and she finally did - an AIDS orphan from Ethiopia. The process was not easy or quick - Suzan had to jump through many hoops before her adoption was final. One obstacle included an I-601 waiver, as the US has a law that bans all noncitizens with HIV from entering the country. After a struggle to get all the necessary paperwork finalized, the Meredith family welcomed their new son in November 2006. A bittersweet homecoming, the Meredith family spent the next eight days at the doctor's office helping Yonas get better. Today, all three children are healthier than ever and the virus in their blood as been brought to "undetectable" levels.

  • Lonny - Columbus/Dayton
    I'd like to introduce you to a man that has been living with HIV since it was referred to as Kaposi's sarcoma, the so-called "gay cancer," in the 80s. Diagnosed in 1983, he did not seek treatment until May of 1996 when he found himself severely ill in the hospital - his heart stopped twice in the emergency room! Given a second chance to live, he turned his life around the best way he could. However, Lonny has dealt with a nasty amount of stigma living in small rural community. He has had his life threatened, house set on fire, his dog was poisoned and parents have approached him on the street to tell him to "rot in hell" because he brought the virus into the community. He was even turned away by his own church; his name was removed from the church's book. Remaining positive, he advocates for testing and education within his community and was involved in the Denver Principles - a self-empowerment project for those living and/or supporting the fight against HIV/AIDS.

  • Maria - New York City
    I'd like to introduce you to an African-American woman who was diagnosed with HIV in 1995. Maria Davis was once a successful hip hop promoter and worked closely on Jay-Z's first album 'Reasonable Doubt' before her world was turned upside-down. She found out she was HIV-positive when she applied for a life insurance policy. Davis soon found out that she had contracted the disease from her soon-to-be husband and three years later she was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. In 1998, Davis became an HIV/AIDS activist and currently serves as a national spokesperson for World AIDS Day. Davis is pursuing a bachelor's degree and continues to defy the odds by living with AIDS at age 51.

  • Oriol - Hoboken, New Jersey
    I'd like to introduce you to a gay man in his early 40s who has been living with HIV for almost two decades. His biggest fear upon diagnosis was that no one would love him. Through the support of family and friends he turned his negative feelings into passion for advocacy. He has been a strong advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness, and has a vast background in publishing - currently he serves as the deputy editor at POZ. He has also been recognized as one of the "25 Most Influential GLBT Latinos" by
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    About amfAR
    Founded in 1985, amfAR is dedicated to ending the global AIDS epidemic through innovative research. With the freedom and flexibility to respond quickly to emerging areas of scientific promise, amfAR plays a catalytic role in accelerating the pace of HIV/AIDS research and achieving real breakthroughs. amfAR-funded research has increased our understanding of HIV and has helped lay the groundwork for major advances in the study and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $325 million in its mission and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.

    "Reproduced with permission - amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research"

    amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

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