Living from one breakthrough to the next

I’ll never forget the first time I disclosed my HIV status. I told my best friend, Jim. He’d known something was up; the growing number of Kaposi sarcoma lesions on my face and body did not go unnoticed. He looked at me for a moment.

“Well, at least you know what you have to do now,” Jim said resolutely. “Your strategy is to be here long enough for the next breakthrough, and then use that to make it to the breakthrough after that. And just keep going.”

He’d always been a pessimist, so for Jim to say that was extraordinary. It was an act of love and hope. It was 1993, and the only treatment at the time was a drug called azidothymidine, or zidovudine, infamously known as AZT. How far we’ve come since then.

Our annual HIV Drug Guide (now in its 27th year!) is a handbook of these breakthroughs and what you should know to make the most of them. Pharmacist Eric K. Farmer and associate editor Enid Vázquez have put together an extensive drug-by-drug compendium with insightful comments by HIV specialist Melanie Thompson, MD, and long-term HIV activist and service provider Joey Wynn. Eric has also written the lead article (READ here) about how your “ph-riendly” neighborhood pharmacist can be a valuable resource for your HIV care.

Also helping to make this year’s Drug Guide possible are Carla Blieden, PharmD, MPH, AAHIVP, and several of her pharmacy students, who reviewed and contributed to our expanded DHHS recommendations in addition to the drug pages. Olivia G. Ford wrote how updated infant feeding guidelines are helping parents living with HIV. In her column, Bridgette Picou talks about the “D” word—disclosure (READ here). And special appreciation to art director Greg Mytych, who designs the magazine.

Advances in HIV treatment are only truly successful when they reach all the people who need them. Health equity is the ultimate breakthrough.

So, how soon will we have a cure? That’s probably the question I get asked the most. Not tomorrow. We keep discovering how clever and complicated HIV is. An HIV researcher and two treatment activists have adapted their presentations for the Drug Guide. Dr. Jared Stern explains how HIV works using a cookbook for a metaphor and recalling an episode of the TV series, Friends (READ here). Lynda Dee and Jeff Taylor talk about the different strategies that could lead to a cure (READ here).

Advances in HIV treatment are only truly successful when they reach all the people who need them. Health equity is the ultimate breakthrough. It’s the only way we’ll put a stop to this virus. Progress is defined not only by expanding medical knowledge, but by expanding access for everyone.

A breakthrough is the culmination of often hard-fought knowledge. It’s a gamechanger, but maybe most important, it offers hope. From one breakthrough to the next.

You are not alone.

P.S. POSITIVELY AWARE has a breakthrough of its own this year. In addition to the wall-size and Pocket Edition HIV drug charts, we’ve introduced the HIV Drug Chart Pocket Edition in Spanish. We hope you share this news with everyone who needs it. Order your charts, in single or bulk orders; go to

PD: Por primera vez, la Tabla de Medicamentos para VIH de Positively Aware Edición de

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