Saturday, January 28, 2012

The AIDS Alphabet: M is for Mepron, Molluscum Contagiosum Virus and Motivation

The AIDS Alphabet: M is for Mepron, Molluscum Contagiosum Virus and Motivation

While covering HIV/AIDS for years now, I got the opportunity to talk to many survivors. What has always amazed me about these AIDS warriors was their motivation, their bravery. How does one stay motivated, day in and day out, when faced with something like AIDS, or cancer or any other devastating situations, reminders of our mortality? Here's one source for Kurt Weston's motivation. Weston is an AIDS warrior and long-term survivor, who, becoming legally blind because of CMV retinitis, became an award-winning photographer. Here's an excerpt from his story I told in Journeys Through Darkness--A Biography of AIDS.

As always, thanks for visiting,
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness--A Biography of AIDS

Journeys Through Darkness. Cover Design by Alina Oswald
Excerpt from Journeys Through Darkness. All Text and Visual Art are Copyright by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved. 
Mepron (Atovaquone): Mepron comes in tablets or oral suspension. It is used to treat mild to moderately severe PCP in patients who are allergic to Bactrim (which is the standard therapy for PCP). Side effects include skin rash and fever. Most common ones are insomnia, diarrhea, cough, headache, and nausea or vomiting, also lack of energy, and fatigue.

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin disease caused by molluscum contagiosum virus, or MCV, which can be transmitted from person to person. MCV is also autoinoculable, meaning that the infected individual can transmit (or spread) it to himself. The MCV infection is generally characterized by small bumps that appear on the face, upper body, or extremities. MCV infects mostly children and adults with impaired immune systems, the latter experiencing the viral infection manifested as tiny, pearl-like papules on their face. When the T cell count falls below two hundred, as it happens in AIDS patients, the lesions start to spread.
Kurt Weston experienced MCV and the KS lesions at the same time on his face. Molluscum contagiosum virus felt like pebbles stuck under his skin that he spread on himself every day, when shaving. So his entire face became covered with warts. He had them around his eyes, on his nose, his cheeks and down his neck. And it looked unimaginably horrible. “I would walk out and people would look at me like ‘oh my God, what’s wrong with this man?’” the photographer recalls. “It was horrifying. I looked like a circus freak and it was very devastating to me.”

In its early days, the psychological and physical burdens the epidemic brought to patients yielded to destructive, negative behaviors in some individuals. Faced with an imminent death sentence, some of those infected developed a “screw it all” attitude, and went on maxing out their credit cards and living totally irresponsible lives because they knew they were going to die soon anyway and didn’t mind leaving somebody else to clean up their mess at the end.