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So much more to HIV/AIDS story than science

by Bradford McIntyre

Published in: The Westender, Vancouver's Urban Voice (2001)

From the beginning, when HIV first hit the gay community, the lack of treatment forced people into action. They sought out alternative therapies and supplements and created a network for wellness. In some cases, taking responsibility for their life and health has been overwhelmingly effective. Out of a probable 17 years living with the HIV virus in my body, I have gone without drug treatments for 13 of those years. But we don't hear or see this side. We also miss seeing and hearing about individuals engaged in drug treatments, who go off their medications for months and even years, with success.

Recognizing the ability of the body to heal has promoted many to choose to combat HIV in a non-medical direction. Often, people were effective in preventing illness and disease for years before drug intervention was ever necessary. Others have gone on living, never having any sign of HIV/AIDS-related opportunistic infections, illness or disease. For some who have tested positive, there has never been any virus replicated in their body. Equally so, those who are on drug treatments have learned to address the importance of diet, exercise, alternative therapies and supplements, mind, body, spirit.

The fear associated with HIV/AIDS has kept us in the dark about this: many fear loosing their family, friends, home and job, many still hide the fact they have been infected with HIV virus. As a result, we don't see, hear, or know the truths of those living with HIV and AIDS.

Science, pharmaceutical companies, the medical profession and government have all but ignored much of what many people living with HIV/AIDS have to say, which is a major contribution in the understanding of this virus. Science and the medical profession provide HIV/AIDS information to the media and the media disseminates it without a real balance of understanding. We see people dying, and certainly in many parts of the world there is malnutrition, lack of medical attention and affordable pharmaceutical resources all contributing to countless deaths. We see the fear associated with sex and the need for safe sex practices. We hear about drug cocktails, the latest approved medications. We see people taking a handful of pills. We hear about the resistance to drugs, and we see through the media those sick with wasting syndrome, PCP pneumonia, or crippled by neuropathy.

What is alarming about this situation is the medical profession holds the HIV virus responsible for any and all illness when a patient is diagnosed infected with HIV, using the excuse that a condition is HIV-related. It is because of this rampant over-diagnosis that little or no search is undertaken for what is causing the health problem.. Many have died, many suffered greatly due to mis-diagnosis or no diagnosis. Other diseases occur, and with a condition in progress or out of control and very little attention given it, this allows for many suffering and dying-not from HIV, but from an invasion of bacteria, fungi, viruses and cancers, unaware to those not looking.

We don't see individuals living a happy full life, whether it be with or without drug treatments. We don’t have people coming forward to tell their side of HIV/AIDS. How are we going to get people to come forward when the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS has created so much fear? People are hiding their infection, yet it makes no sense to believe everyone who is infected with HIV will get sick or die.

We don't see those who benefit from the drugs and have their health restored, returning to the work force. We don't see or hear about individuals who test positive for HIV or have AIDS, in relationships where one partner is infected and one is not.

The public needs to understand HIV and let go of the fear. Letting go of the fear, we can all talk to our family and friends and co-workers about our personal lives. Our employers can get health related information. And, if need be, we can ask for help and receive help. We can also eliminate false perceptions and judgments due to sheer ignorance.

There is more power in people knowing the truth, than there ever was in fear and hiding. A shift in perception is nothing short of a miracle.

Bradford McIntyre

Vancouver, BC, Canada


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