Monday, October 3, 2011

Thirty Years of AIDS: AIDS Alphabet

1981-2011: AIDS is thirty this year, 30! Although I've been documenting the pandemic for about a decade, although I've covered everything from survival stories to the latest medical updates and hopes in a possible AIDS cure (and/or vaccine), the truth is that we are still living in a time of AIDS... and we may continue to do so for quite a long time.

Three decades of AIDS, yet how many of us know our AIDS alphabet? It may come in handy to help us navigate the complexity of living with HIV/AIDS. Because the truth is that there is, indeed, a very fine line to walk, "a very fine line between disaster and hope," as best-selling author, Joel Rothschild, used to say, a very fine line between living an active life while living with a life-threatening disease and becoming its next victim.

I feel like I have to mention HIV/AIDS especially this year, when the pandemic turns thirty, thus continuing to keep the AIDS conversation alive. So, for starters, I'd like to start my own AIDS alphabet, as I've learned it while researching and writing Journeys Through Darkness, a biography that tells the survival story of Kurt Weston, an award-winning photographer who lost most of his sight to HIV/AIDS.

As always, thanks for visiting! Hope you'll find Kurt Weston's story as inspiring as I found it.
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness

AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome includes a complex of diseases determined by the deterioration of an individual’s immune system.
Antiretroviral medications: ARV medications fight the virus by interfering with the growth and replication of HIV at various stages of its life cycle, thus prolonging the lives of those infected with HIV.
AZT: AZT (Azydothymidine) is the first mono-therapy antiviral drug, FDA approved in 1987

In 1987 the FDA approved the first anti-HIV medication, azidothymidine [AZT], which had powerful negative side effects. While the drug was suppressing the replication of HIV, it was also causing bone marrow suppression that could lead to anemia, hair loss or a decrease in white blood cells. Other side effects included nausea, muscle weakness, and headaches. But AZT was the first AIDS medication to offer patients a sliver of hope for survival, no matter how slim that was. So Kurt had no choice but to take the drug if he wanted a chance to stay alive.
AZT made him extremely fatigued, to the point that Kurt started to find it more and more difficult to maintain the high energy level he needed to sustain at his job. As a fashion photographer he had to work with many people, from hair stylists and make-up artists to fashion designers, who were looking up to him to make decisions. It was his job to keep them motivated and enthusiastic in the studio, but in order to do that Kurt needed to be energetic and enthusiastic, himself. And all he wanted to do was crawl up in a corner, somewhere where everybody would just let him be with his fatigue, nausea, and sickness.