Growing Pains

These are uncertain times we live in. When daily messages of hopelessness and despair fill your newsfeed, there may be a temptation to shut down and tune out, or to return to old, self-destructive behaviors in an effort to cope.

If you just tested positive, you might be thinking it’s the last straw. But I need you need to know…you will be okay. You’re going to be okay.

If you’re a long-term survivor of HIV, you’ve come a long way, baby. Don’t give up now. We’ve come too far to be defeated this easily.

Lately I’ve been reading up on something called post-traumatic growth. Research shows that many people who face trauma, adversity, or other life challenges actually report positive benefits, becoming stronger and having a more meaningful life in the wake of tragedy or a life-altering experience. We’ve seen this played out time and time again in HIV, where people turn their life around, and find meaning in their lives by helping others.

There are numerous instances of life after testing positive that are uplifting and inspiring. Take Magic Johnson, for example. He used his diagnosis to raise awareness about HIV, how it’s transmitted (and more importantly how it’s not transmitted), while providing hope to many of us living with HIV that we can still live a full, happy, and healthy life. AIDS activist the Rev. Rae Lewis-Thornton is another inspirational figure, someone who has been living with AIDS since the 1980s, yet uses her remarkable journey and life story to help inform others, especially youth, about HIV and AIDS.

HIV stigma still remains a stubborn issue, unfortunately. Dr. David Malebranche’s article on page 16 illustrates why it’s important to understand the many layers of stigma, if we are ever truly going to put a dent in the alarming number of new infections taking place in many of our disadvantaged and dis-empowered communities.

So whether you just tested positive, or are a long-timer like me, I encourage you to try to take your adversity and mold it into a strength. The 21st Annual Positively Aware HIV Drug Guide could be your first step toward a new, more meaningful life, by helping you to become informed about HIV treatment so that you can advocate for your own health, or the health of someone you care about.

The HIV treatment landscape continues to evolve. For those who are newly or recently diagnosed, one pill once a day with few or no side effects is pretty much a given these days (see our 2017 HIV Drug Chart in the center of this issue). But it wasn’t long ago that we had to take handfuls of pills several times a day, with horrible side effects like diarrhea, bone loss, kidney stones, or worse, along with lots of restrictions and qualifications on when and how to dose our meds.

When all is said and done, though, the future of HIV treatment looks bright, with more effective and more tolerable medications (no more “me-too” drugs); long-acting injectables (two shots once a month?); two-drug single-tablet regimens (less really is more!); and new co-formulations of existing medications (everything old is new again), all on the near horizon (see page 62). Drugs that attack HIV using different targets and new delivery methods could help those with resistance or who are struggling with adherence, but challenges remain—read Dr. Joel Gallant’s “State of the ART” on page 11. The availability of generics could alter the landscape even further, with new generic single-tablet regimens coming soon to a pharmacy near you. If there’s any doubt, read about the benefits of treatment in Dr. Chris Nguyen’s “The Art of Treating HIV” on page 23.

Speaking of evolution, in an effort to make Positively Aware better for everyone, please take a moment to take our 2017 Reader Survey on page 67. We definitely want to hear from you, and value your opinion. It only takes a minute, and it’s free!

Thank you to everyone involved in the monumental effort involved in the making of the 2017 Positively Aware HIV Drug Guide, including the amazing Chris Nguyen, PharmD; the always-remarkable Dr. David Malebranche; Matt Sharp (you’re our hero!); our dear friend Dr. Joel Gallant; the meticulous Jason Lancaster for your eagle eyes; photographer Louis “Kengi” Carr for the beauty and inspiration you bring; Project Inform’s Andrew Reynolds (our HCV rock star); Tim Horn and the Fair Pricing Coalition; NASTAD’s always dependable Britten Pund; Drew Halbur at Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago; Kim and Mike at Fry Communications; and of course, last but not least, the genius of Creative Director Rick Guasco, who through his magic somehow makes it all work, and the extraordinary prowess of Associate Editor Enid Vázquez—we couldn’t do this without you.

Take care of yourself, and each other.