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AAHIVM marks 25th
anniversary of AIDS by calling for more HIV specialists

AAHIVM marks 25th
anniversary of AIDS by calling for more HIV specialists

As AIDS turns 25, AAHIVM says more HIV caregivers are needed

Howard Grossman, executive director of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, released the following statement on Monday to mark the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the global AIDS pandemic:

Today's 25th anniversary of the first reported AIDS cases is a day of somber reflection. We who were health care providers on that day a quarter of a century ago could have never imagined the sudden, radical shift our lives would take, whether we wanted to or not. Many of us who were just embarking on our medical careers in private practice or in public health found ourselves steeped in the utter horror of a disease we knew absolutely nothing about--a disease that began claiming the lives of our patients, our friends, and our families--swiftly and painfully. We also found ourselves in the middle of a cultural, moral and political battleground that ruthlessly exploited stereotypes and fears, as the stigma of HIV/AIDS took hold of the country's consciousness just like the virus itself claims the immune system.

The days and years that followed June 5, 1981, were dark times for those who were living with the disease, and for those of us who were caring for them. Those of us who didn't burn out from the daily patient death counts in our practices hung on to some spark of hope in the middle of our professional and personal despair, as a community slowly, but effectively, began to unite, rise up and demand action.

Sick of feeling as helpless and as hopeless as our patients, some health care professionals joined them, calling for what we as their care providers knew firsthand they needed to live: More research for a cure. Better drug therapies. Improved access to care and treatment.

We who dedicated our lives to healing needed these things as much as our patients did--so we could serve them to the best of our ability.

The advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy in the mid 1990s got us on another emotional roller-coaster ride: We had the euphoric revelation that on HAART, our patients with HIV/AIDS were no longer dying in mass numbers. In fact, some were actually getting better. Grueling side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue had many who were living longer asking themselves if it was worth it.

Complicated drug delivery schedules with different meds at different times under different conditions made staying healthy annoying and complicated. Development of medications with less complicated delivery schedules made taking meds easier. People are living longer with more active lives. Some develop elevated lipids and cholesterol, some are developing resistance, and, shockingly, some still aren't getting the medicine they need at all. It is a ride that, when added to the exhausting devastation of HIV's first 15 years, has often left HIV care providers wondering: What exactly is up and what exactly is down?

Now, on top of the caring, and the learning, and the advocating, we who were health care providers at HIV's beginning need to take on one more responsibility: expanding. We must expand the numbers of knowledgeable, skilled specialists in HIV care. HIV isn't going anywhere. It touches every corner of the world. Advances made to stall or eliminate it have yielded complicated clinical, social and economic consequences. There is much work to do, and more are needed to help do it.

We can't give up now! As we reflect on this 25th anniversary of AIDS, AAHIVM's leaders and members honor those who have died with the disease, those who have lived with the disease and those who have cared for people with the disease. We remain as dedicated as ever to the goals we articulated at our inception more than six years ago: advancing excellence in HIV care, and helping those we serve to gain access to, and to receive, the best of care and the best of us. (The Advocate)

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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