Instead of hurrying through life, take a moment to breathe

This is why we do what we do, why this issue you’re holding in your hands is so important, and demonstrates the incredible power that knowledge and sharing our stories can hold.

In early September of last year I was attending the United States Conference on AIDS in Orlando and running late for a dinner I had been invited to that evening. AIDS conferences are the endurance marathons for AIDS activists, from the moment you wake up until you hit your pillow late at night you are literally running from session to meeting to workshop to reception, just to get up and do it all over again. This goes on for a number of days, and you’re lucky if you get five to six hours of sleep each night. Invariably when you get home you are exhausted and spent—but in a good way.

As I was hurrying down a long, wide corridor filled with people scurrying to their own reception/dinner/meeting, one person headed toward me in the opposite direction caught my eye. She seemed to recognize me but I was pretty sure I didn’t know her, and I was late for my dinner, so I smiled back but decided to keep moving. But then as we neared each other we both stopped, and she began to talk. And my eyes started to well up as she shared her story.

She introduced herself and said she wanted to thank me. When she was incarcerated (she explained then and in a subsequent conversation) they would send her to a local HIV clinic every three months, and that is where she discovered POSITIVELY AWARE. She told me it gave her hope—I think her exact words were, it saved my life. She told me that reading about my personal journey and my own struggles touched her deeply during a dark time in her life (she had learned she was HIV positive and had lost a friend due to complications from AIDS), but by reading the magazine somehow she knew she was going to be okay. She knew nothing about which regimens to take, or what resources were there for her, but she learned how to formulate questions for her doctor and get the care that she needed.

I told her how glad I was to have made a difference in some small way, and how much it meant to me that she shared her story with me. We exchanged cards, and both went on our busy way, but I have never forgotten that moment—it will stay with me for the rest of my life.

So this is why we do what we do, why this issue you are holding in your hands is so important, and demonstrates the incredible power that knowledge and sharing our stories can hold. This is our annual HIV Drug Guide, our 23rd to be exact (I always like to point out that there were only three drugs in the first drug guide). It’s not meant to be read from cover to cover, although there is probably that one person out there who does that (thank you!). Rather, glean from it what you will, and keep the issue handy all year round for when you need it again. For some that means if you are starting treatment for the first time, the DHHS guidelines (“And the Nominees Are...”) show which regimens are recommended. If you are experiencing a side effect, or suspect a drug interaction, go to that section on the drug page to learn more. And if you like looking at pretty pictures of pills, the pullout HIV drug chart is just for you!

I would be remiss not to thank all of the many people involved in the making of the drug guide, starting with Associate Editor Enid Vázquez and our pharmacist Eric Farmer, PharmD, who update the bulk of this huge bear (special thanks to Eric for his excellent writing and review); Creative Director Rick Guasco, whose fantastic design and amazing covers continue to blow me away; the talented Dr. W. David Hardy and Moisés Agosto-Rosario for their expertise and insight; Carla Blieden, PharmD, who came out of the blue to volunteer her help and is now part of the team; the mastery and beauty of photographer John Gress; our eagle-eye proofreader Jason Lancaster; with additional thanks to Drew Halbur, BSPharm, and all of the wonderful people at Walgreens; and the staff of TPAN for putting up with us and our craziness while we are on deadline.

It really does take a village, and it’s important to stop and take the time to listen to each other. No one is an island. Individually we can make our own personal achievements, but collectively and working together we can change lives.

Take care of yourself, and each other.