The Face of HIV

Over twenty five years ago I became knowingly introduced to a world which included a deadly virus which would eventually have the name–Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). At that time, I did not know how important a role that virus would play in my life. Quickly, the effects of that virus would lead me to make a significant choice in the direction of my career and would cause me to meet people of various ages, races, genders, and life situations. I have never regretted that!!

Even in the early times it was easy to see that the HIV virus had its greatest effect on specific populations. Gay men and injection drug users stood out as populations at highest risk. Over time, as we have been blessed by the discovery of effective drugs which extend life and reduce transmission, there have been great improvements in the lives of many who are infected with the virus.

However, there has also been a change in the populations which I now commonly see as severely affected by HIV. I have observed increasing disparity which affects people of color. These people are generally the poor, gay male minorities, those with mental illness, and minority women suffering from physical and substance abuse. Meanwhile, I have noticed that those in white, educated and affluent communities appear to be less commonly diagnosed as HIV positive.

Given my observed changes in those most infected and affected, I believe it is important to increase our efforts aimed at prevention, treatment, and adherence in those populations while continuing conventional HIV/AIDS related strategies. This means increased efforts not only in the current populations most infected, but also increased efforts in those who are affected such as family members, friends, and advocates!!!!!