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TRUTH & CONSEQUENCE: Testimonials on Living with HIV

In commemoration of World AIDS Day, GRIOT Circle honors the lives of loving, inspirational and courageous souls who transitioned too soon, by passing forward the wisdom they imparted from their battle with HIV and AIDS.   Here, in their own words, we share an excerpt from the oral history project Without the Burden of this Secret The conversations on HIV/AIDS in the POC LGBT elder community today, bear many common threads to the sentiments and experiences in these interviews which occurred 20 years ago in New York City.

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LOUIS GRANT  ::  OPEN & OUT

I have lost a lot of friends to AIDS.  Too often I have thought that some unnecessarily allowed themselves to succumb to the disease.  They did not fight, they were not positive [minded] they accepted the diagnosis as a statement of impeding doom.  It seems to me that we black folk have moved slower in acknowledging the impact of this disease on our community.  Our people are suffering and dying because too often we are afraid to come out to our family…to our friends at a time when we need them most.  I think it’s very important to be out in terms of being a homosexual man and as a person with AIDS.  I’m out in every context: in my home, in my work situation.  I think carrying the burden of this secret, as so many of us do, when one has AIDS it just contributes to the illness.  It dos not make sense at this point in one’s life, when one needs to grasp all the life preserves one can, to not be open and out.  For me it’s another effective survival tool.”

Louis Grant

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JOE LONG  ::  SURVIVING DEMON DOCTORS

I was diagnosed with the HIV virus in 1989.  I was tested when I discovered a parotid cyst in my right cheek.  I was putting all kinds of solutions and compresses on it and it wouldn’t go down.  I finally decided to get to a doctor at New York Ear Nose and Throat.  The first thing he said to me was, “This is typical of gay fellas, why don’t you go take the test?”  Swollen glands and parotid cysts were nothing unusual, so I said I didn’t want to take the [AIDS] Test, I didn’t think that that was necessary, I wanted to see what we could do about the swelling, but he insisted.  So I did.  When I came back ten days later he told me my results were positive and to go get on AZT—as simple as that.  I asked if there was something he could do about the cyst.  He said that, I needed to find somebody who could put me on AZT.  He conferred with his partner and just left it like that. [Were they caucasian doctors?] A Jewish doctor and an East Indian doctor.  There was no pre- nor post-test counseling.  And when I asked for my records so that I could follow-up on the cyst, they directed me to the records department and said that I could take them to any doctor I’d like.  They didn’t offer to treat me any further.  So I was like in the street.”

Joe Long

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CDC Releases HIV Infection Study

Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans living with HIV do not have their infection under control, according to a Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The authors say the low percentage is because 1 in 5 people with HIV do not realize they are infected and, of those who are
aware, only 51 percent receive ongoing medical care and treatment.

Of the nearly 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, only an estimated 28 percent have a suppressed viral load (defined as viral load less than 200 copies of the blood-borne virus per milliliter
of blood)–meaning that the virus is under control and at a level that helps keep them healthy and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.

However, of those living with HIV who are in ongoing care and on antiretroviral treatment, 77 percent have suppressed levels of the virus.  Effective HIV treatment and care benefit infected individuals by improving their health, and are also important for HIV prevention.  Results from a recent study of heterosexual couples from the National Institutes of Health showed that consistently taking antiretroviral therapy, in combination with safer behaviors, can reduce the risk of spreading HIV by approximately 96 percent.

Men who have sex with men (MSM), the population most severely affected by HIV in the United States, are least likely to know they are infected and less likely to receive prevention counseling (39 percent, compared with 50 percent of men who have sex with women and women who have sex with men).

Study authors underscore that improvements are needed at each stage in the overall process of treatment and care. That means increasing the number of infected Americans who are tested, linked to care, remain in care, receive prevention counseling and are successfully treated – all to achieve viral suppression.

For more information on new statistics on viral suppression click here–>  Vital Signs Study.

15 Minutes of Exercise May Add Years to Your Life

By Meredith Melnick

TIME

Only about a third of Americans currently meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for physical health, which advise a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, plus additional strength-training.

Now here’s the good news for the rest of us: just 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day (or 92 minutes per week) was associated with a three-year increase in life expectancy and a 14% reduction in risk of death by any cause, compared with a sedentary lifestyle, according to a new study.

Each additional 15 minutes of daily exercise (up to 100 minutes a day) reduced the risk of death by an additional 4%, the study found, and people who got 30 minutes of activity a day added about four extra years to their life expectancy, compared with their sedentary peers.

The observational study involved more than 400,000 people in Taiwan, who were followed for an average of about eight years.  Researchers gave participants a questionnaire asking about their medical history and lifestyle habits, including how much leisure-time physical activity they got.  Based on the answers, researchers divided them into activity intensity groups: light (walking), moderate (brisk walking), vigorous (jogging) and very vigorous (running).

People were characterized as inactive if they got less than one hour of exercise per week.  Compared with this group, those who got even small amounts of moderate activity daily lived longer.

TO READ FULL ARTICLE, CLICK HERE –> LIVE LONGER WITH LIGHT EXERCISE.