Wednesday, May 21, 2008

HIV Anniversary

I was reminded that yesterday was an anniversary (or birthday, as the writer put it). 25 years ago an article in Science described a virus (later named HIV) was found in an individual with acquired immune deficiency syndrome and was the likely cause.

I practiced HIV Primary Care from 1993 into 2003 (in a practice I helped start and grew as its lead physician). I will never forget the many experiences that practice afforded me. To say that the patients and the disease touched my heart is an understatement.

I often talked then of how “compassion fatigue” drove HIV/AIDS out of the news and most people’s minds. It is worse now. We must remember that over 25 million people have died from AIDS since 1981. The AIDS rate in Washington, DC is 5% currently.

AIDS means a mother can't work to feed her children. It means that a sister has no brother to protect her from neighborhood thugs. It means that a family, a community, and a culture is torn apart. AIDS means that teachers can't teach and students can't learn. AIDS means that the road out of poverty is slow, albeit impossible. AIDS is a societal transformation and so much more.

The treatment for HIV is much better these days, but there is no cure. We must make sure that folks have access to care (good care) and that research continues. HIV hasn’t gone away we just don’t think about it much any more. My heart is heavy with its memories.

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