HIV+ people who have never taken AIDS drugs, or have stopped taking them.
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This essay by Jay Garland describes some aspects of his life as an HIV-positive gay man, and also addresses broader issues.

1) Stigma

Being a gay male that was diagnosed as HIV positive in 2007 and then placed in an induced coma with AIDS in 2008, I have never been able to share with my family the reason for me contracting pneumonia and almost dying. My learning about stigma and how it impacts on the lives of both people living with HIV and the people in their lives has given me the courage to meet with my parents and share with them my journey of being diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.

2) Demographics

HIV is an interesting virus in that it affects different demographics in different ways. In the west it seems to have confined itself to the gay, male community and early intervention and the advent of the safe sex campaign appears to be the main reason it has stayed within this demographic. In Africa, it has plagued the heterosexual community and wreaked havoc on young and old. Problems with lack of access to HIV medications, combined with poor sanitation and dirty drinking water has only added to this problem. Male circumcision is now being used in these countries as ‘treatment as prevention’ .  Across the globe, black people are most at risk, with black, male homosexuals therefore being the demographic most affected by HIV.

3) Viral Load

To help me with understanding research papers, I’ve also started a course on statistics. This has lead me to question the use of viral load being a valid tool in analysing blood for people living with HIV as  helminth parasites will cause the viral load test to return a high viral load and killing the helminth parasites will lead to a low viral load reading. As such, it appears that viral load is not an independent variable (I may have the incorrect statistical term here) and as such cannot be reliably used in analysing the blood of people living with HIV.

4) CD4 Count Blood Test

Similarly, I now question the statistical validity of using the CD4 count blood test for similar problems with the parameter not being independent (again, my apologies if I’ve used the incorrect terms here). Since CD4 count can vary because of: haematopoiesis, exposure to sunlight, exercise, depression, mood change, sexually transmitted infections (notably syphilis), ethnicity, etc its use must be questioned in areas from assessing health to advising treatment.

5) Controllers

Having stopped taking HAART in June 2012 (for a very complex range of reasons) my health has improved in leaps and bounds and my doctor and HIV nurse are amazed as the expected outcome was a decline in my health. I have had it suggested to me that I may be a controller so I was eager to learn all about them. In this course I’ve learnt about super elite controllers, viremic long term non-progressors, elite controllers and viremic controllers. At the time of doing this course, a new type of controller was discovered: the post-treatment controller. Alas, it seems I’m not a controller of any sort. While I’ve learnt a lot in this area, I still do not understand what is happening with my own health.

You can email Jay Garland.