Thanks for your story OP.
I'm also a gay male who has been living with HIV for 8 years, but I've had no AIDS defining conditions, and my CD4 count is still within normal range.
I certainly agree that you do not have to be promiscuous to get HIV, and stereotyping HIV-positive people like that is a part of what leads people to
be careless with their own behavior. Stigma makes us think that HIV is the problem of "those bad people", and the irony is I also used to think like
that, instead of making sure I was safe in every situation.
We have 6 million people living with HIV/AIDS in SA.
The virus was at first ignored during some crucial stages, and many people did not understand it at all.
The most affected population group are heterosexual women, which means that mother-to-child transmission, as well as AIDS-orphans and child headed
households, were a big problem.
Since 1996 it's been quite a struggle to get the new medications, and at first only the rich, or people on medical insurance (including those in the
government) had access to them.
The virus also took an economic toll as it killed productive adults, with high rates amongst nurses, teachers and the army.
President Thabo Mbeki became convinced through some conspiracy theories that poor nutrition, rather than HIV caused AIDS.
He also believed that the medicines were toxic, and for a whole decade we got no clear message on HIV prevention from leadership whatsoever.
Apart from some pilot projects run by foreign aid groups, the ANC refused to supply the drugs, and told us that a mixture of breakfast cereal, lemon
juice, olive oil, beetroot and garlic would cure AIDS.
Essentially 300 000 people were left to die in that period.
Today it's been mooted that we should have a truth commission to understand how a middle-income country that was offered the ARVs on a platter failed
it's people so badly.
Some blame it on internalized stigma, and Mbeki's view that AIDS was based on colonial myths about "unbridled African sexuality".
Since Mbeki was removed from power in 2008 things are going better, although there are still religious groups pushing unclear messages on condoms, and
a range of con-men peddling useless and unproven products, but luckily the biggest crackpots left the country. One of these crooks even sold a single
ARV as a vitamin pill, which works for a short time, but the virus finds it's way around it.
Currently not everybody who needs ARVs gets them, but the situation is better, and mother-to-child transmissions are much reduced.
At least many people can put food on the table and support their families.
Leaving people with AIDS untreated leaves them with a hyper-infectious viral load, as well as with mental problems that can cause further harm.
The social strain of caring for a person dying of AIDS is also tremendous.
I'm certainly open to the idea that HIV was man-made, and was also spread by Polio vaccines grown in monkey organs in central Africa.
At least here coming out as HIV-positive is seen as commendable, because it's only by public advocacy that the stigma and denial can be addressed, and
people can be honest with themselves and their partners. A lot of celebrities have already done so, although there's probably a lot more in government
who could do so.
Some are still in denial, while con-man preachers tell people they are healed from AIDS.
I followed the diffuse arguments of the denialists at first, but I've seen the medications work, even the limited 6 cocktails available by state
clinics here (and in Western countries there are many more). I've discussed that issue ad nauseam on ATS, and if people want to believe that diets or
vitamins can cure them that's fine with me - nobody is forced to take ARVs.
All the best, and I do hope you check with your doctor before stopping medication so that the virus doesn't develop resistance, but I've heard of some
people who can stop when an AIDS-defining condition has cleared up and their CD4 count is still high (above 350 in SA). I assume you proceeded with
the knowledge of your doctor.
Don't worry about people who say you brought it on yourself and don't deserve treatment - we still have some people like that here, and we just remind
them that a lot of medical expenses are due to carelessness and risky behavior. It's a bit like saying we shouldn't help shark attack victims, because
everyone in SA knows that swimming in the sea is dangerous; or that rugby can cause spinal injuries; or that the sun can cause skin cancer; or that a
bad diet causes heart diseases.
Arguments like that have never been helpful, and just make people fatalistic and unwilling to know their status.
The activism and clinical work done by brave Western people in the face of continual stigma has already saved and improved the lives of millions of
people in poorer nations.
edit on 5-1-2012 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)