I am in the south; for now. With that move comes changes of all kinds and one of those for me is finding medical help and of course a new "infectious disease" doctor (which I hate that they call our doctors that, like we are suffering from the bubonic plague). To my surprise however the doctor I got was nice and he has been in the HIV field since before antiretrovirals came on the scene.
My inquisitive nature always feeds my desire for furthering my knowledge. It's kind of a curse at times. But... I used this as an opportunity to interview him and get his take on the HIV epidemic upon finding out how long he'd dedicated his life to this. My inner nerd just can't be helped. I asked what he sees is the biggest issue facing his clients/patients. Why he thinks new infections are happening at alarming rates and what he thinks would help... he said his patients come in with new STIs consistently. That they (this younger generation of HIV patients) all have a very careless attitude about HIV and STIs. "They haven't watched people die the way older generations have. They have tinder and grinder and sex is very carefree. It's like 'ok doc just give me my pills and see ya.'" He had a patient open his grinder and show him that one floor above them someone was looking for an unprotected hookup in the bathroom upstairs when he was talking to them about not being so careless and adhering to meds.
While this shocked me and proved to be confirmation of some of what I feel and think, I started to look at it from his shoes. A man not impacted directly or infected that has spent his life work trying to find a way to help. As a caring and compassionate person I lend a voice to anything I feel needs my time. Any cause I may help or aid with it. Had I never contracted this virus though I don't know if I'd have the same passion as this man.
I've lost people I love to this disease. I've seen people I love and admire fight to get us where we are. I have witnessed people give their life to this fight! While yes, we are more free now and the attitude has shifted because adherence to meds and being undetectable means you're not capable of transmitting HIV; and yes I myself love that we are able to be more free from this, it does not mean be careless. Yes we for the most part CAN and DO live full normal lives minus the stigma. Though it does not mean it's just taking a pill and moving on with life even if we can't infect others anymore and it's scientifically sound, proven and factual.
There is still stigma and hate. Harassment and judgement. Medical expenses and costs. Job and career challenges and insecurity. Among so many other things. Trust me I know having had employers demean me and threaten my job over being public about living with HIV, and ultimately losing friends, family, careers, and so much more.
I found myself asking, what can we do, what needs to be done? As a solution-based thinker I find it hard to see a problem or challenge of any sort and not be able to fix it or try to. With this blog I want to ask you what we can do? What do YOU think is the answer or will help?
I always find the more smart minds we can gather together the better off we are. Together fighting for something is easier than competing or being in opposition. A team can do more if we work together.
So... what is your answer?