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 dont
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.
Vancouver, BC, Canada
copyright © Bradford McIntyre