Let’s Talk Viral Loads
I have a bit of expertise here; 40 plus years of it. I never, ever, thought that I would be back in a situation where I would be talking about a new virus and a new viral load that I needed to be concerned with but here I am.
I have lived, well, with HIV for 40 years.
Let me be crystal clear. It has not been a picnic. In the early days (like now) it was ALL uncertainty, fear, and misinformation. Like now. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. Today, again, we don’t know what we don’t know, yet. There will be breakthroughs: new information being compiled and analyzed and disseminated every few weeks. Treatments are already being promoted and it’s the drug regimens that are bubbling up that I want to address first.
These triple combination anti-viral drugs that appear to show some promise against CoVid19 are the very same drugs that were developed on the backs of HIV patients over the last three decades. Through trials, sometimes horrifically side-effected trials, and errors, many of us have lived on to see longer lives than we ever imagined back in the dark ages of the 80’s and 90’s. These have not been free passes. We monitor our blood levels constantly to check for liver damage, kidney failure, bone loss, and yes, viral loads. Our data is compiled, along with others, to make a map of what works and what doesn’t. Along the way, what didn’t work killed many. The losses are so legion, the pain is so deep, that the PTSD suffered by many of my generation is palpable, insidious, and everlasting. I want us to have some sort of credit, acknowledgement, for machete-hacking our way through this morass to the current levels of survivability that will significantly shortcut the current advances for millions.
Those of us in this unique category are having a collective flashback.
Treated as pariahs and objects to be feared and avoided for a generation, we learned to be reflective over how and who we shared our viral status with. Positive carried such a society-wide, traumatic, connotation that many took their own lives rather than wait for the disease or the social out-casting to take them for us. Facing a life of medical interventions that few outside of cancer wards can comprehend, we quietly went about surviving however we could; unable often to even mourn the loss of our friends and lovers out of fear of rejection and the innate knowledge that admitting the deaths brought our own fragility to the forefront.
So we suffered in silence. We protested, in public, when we could. Mostly, we just lived on, waiting for each new drug, each new treatment, hopeful that each next one would be the last, best, hope/cure. There is no cure. There is no vaccine. Forty years and this HIV virus is still in many ways a mystery; manageable but with caveats written all over its DNA.
Bam! The curtain dropped on the shit-show that poses as our world these days. Earth, mismanaged to the brink on almost every front; economic, cultural, climate, name it and we are not good steward of anything. The ecology courses I took in college in the 70’s were spot on as to the state we are currently in. We paid no mind of the warning signals; the out of control pollution, the warming of the earth, the rise of the seas; all things for the next generation to contend with and hopefully, magically, solve.
But when a new (novel) virus sprang to life, one hundreds of times more contagious than HIV, boy did the world stop in its collective tracks and take note. Group-think became one mind of “I could GET this thing!”. “Lock her up!” became Lock Us Down in a split second.
As someone who has lived a “locked” life in so many respects for so many decades I must admit to a certain amount of self-satisfaction in the current state of affairs. Not that I wish more people to suffer and die. I just feel an amount of justification in feeling a bit smug. Really.
How’s it feel, buster, to know this fear of an unseen killer that you can contract simply by living your life? How does it feel to distrust your neighbors, fear the store clerks, shrink from your friends? Scary shit, no? Well, now you have a glimpse of my last four decades. Satisfied? I’m not. Do I want you all to have to live on the drugs I’ve been on all these years? No.
I just really, really, don’t want to have to do this all over again.
Yet here I am, locked in my comfortable home and community, amid all my fellow “sufferers” but with an edge up…and a look down…the barrel of the gun I have already faced down for far too long. Will there be an answer? Soon? Ever? Who can say?
What I do resent is that after managing to craft a pretty wonderful existence out of the pond scum of the HIV generation, I was quite looking forward to my Golden Years. I moved to a fantastic community of sun, and pools, and warmth, and camaraderie that I felt in my bones would be my sustenance and survival; things and people that would carry me on out of this life. Having weathered HIV into my senior years, I felt it was only what I, at last, deserved.
Instead, I have Covid fear and the fog of the unknown, again. So, if I seem a little bitter, I am. If I feel as if giving the collective world populace a giant raspberry of a “gotcha” is warranted, and deserved, so be it. In the end, it brings me only cold comfort. My friends are dying once again; as horrific and ugly deaths as back in the day only now they must suffer and die alone, incapable of speech, and touch, and any human interaction. Which is worse? Must I choose?
I want more choices. I want more life. I just want more…and not of this.