Sustaining Light

On today’s prompt” Sustaining Light” I am going to use the word light as a metaphor for “memory” and relate it specifically to AIDS. Last Wednesday was World AIDS Day which is meant to draw attention to the global AIDS epidemic. With the advent of really pretty good containment medications and one preventive medication HIV has faded from memory for many. HIV remains a significant issue however for young gay men in this country particularly so for queer men of color. A preventative vaccine for HIV and even a possible cure remains distant apparently although one is left to wonder about the delay considering the very rapid vaccine development for COVID.

In my most cynical moments, I wonder if the issue is not one of the marginalized populations versus the not-so-marginalized populations. Let’s face it grandmas in nursing homes were never at risk for HIV. I do acknowledge that HIV presents much more difficult challenges when it comes to vaccine development than do coronaviruses. Again, at my most cynical why would many drug companies have any incentive for an AIDS vaccine or cure when they are making truck loads of cash on the current containment options.

I must admit even I have difficulty retaining focus on HIV and this from someone who has the fucking virus and worked as a nurse in Denver Health’s AIDS clinic for over 20 years. I am not fortunate enough to be able to take the current HIV treatments that involve a single pill containing multiple medications once a day. Rather I pop 7 pills a day due to resistance issues related to mono and dual therapies in the late 1990’s. Taking these is however a barely noticeable routine. My diabetes and A-fib are of much more concern for me these days along with a very unsightly midsection weight gain.

An interesting wrinkle in the COVID variant Omicron of note involves a theory/speculation being bantered about that this particular variant with its multiple mutations may have evolved from an already immunocompromised person with HIV. The immune compromise from HIV hinders and slows the body from clearing its COVID infection. This link is to a piece addressing this possibility from December 2nd in the L.A. Times:

The longer for example one has the Delta variant in your body the more chance it has to keep replicating and making replication mistakes resulting in possible multiple mutations, which can then be passed on to others. If this were to pan out it might focus more attention, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa on the millions of HIV-positive folks not receiving adequate or even any sort of HIV treatment. The downside of course would be inappropriate blame placed on the HIV infected rather than on the root cause of glaring treatment and income inequalities.

Speaking now of only the US there have been more deaths from COVID here in just two years than from the entire AIDS epidemic. This disturbing news out of Africa though about poorly treated HIV infection being a possible co-factor in new emerging COVID variants should act as another reminder that we are all one people in one ever-shrinking world. The urgency for patent elimination for vaccines and a renewed effort at getting vaccine supply and the new drug treatments out to the planet’s teaming underserved is vital for everyone’s long-term wellbeing.

The development of adequate HIV-containing medical interventions came about as quickly as they did in no small part because of vigorous, in-your-face and unrelenting AIDS activism. It is always difficult to sustain the energy needed to create change, but it is as necessary now as ever.