May 2, 2011
Dawn Averitt Bridge
The Well Project founder, mother (her older daughter was POZ’s first cover baby, celebrating an HIV-negative birth), positive for 23 years.
June 5, 2011, marks 30 years since the first published accounts of what
became known as AIDS. For this anniversary, we asked 31 long-term
survivors who’ve appeared in POZ what moves and sustains them and
whether they think they’ll live to see a cure. Why 31? One for each
year, and one more for good luck.
What’s the most helpful thing anyone has said to you over your years living with HIV?
“HIV isn’t the death sentence you think it is. So don’t steal a car or rob a bank. You’ll most likely be here to pay for it!”
What change or development in your treatment for HIV has most affected your life—for better or worse?
Medications that work! Seriously, even as a (very) treatment-experienced patient, my regimen is simpler now, my life is more manageable, and HIV is just part of my life—it does not define me.
What is your refuge from thinking about and dealing with your health?
My daughters. These amazing little people are the children I was never going to have because of HIV. Hiking with them, traveling with them, cooking with them, or just lounging around with them—they ground me and help me be present each and every day.
What has been your major economic challenge since testing positive?
Access to medications. Even with insurance, access to treatment has been difficult at times. Crazy co-pays, huge deductibles, prescription caps, out-of-pocket costs for replacing lost or forgotten meds, etc. I think the rest of the world grossly underestimates the challenges of staying on your meds (all the time) and what it takes to get them when you need them.
What one thing has most aided your survival, and how difficult is it to overcome stigma?
Activism. Plain and simple. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t learn to fight for others (and therefore for myself) early on. I’m very fortunate. I have great emotional support through my family and friends and colleagues. But stigma is still part of our lives everyday. If you don’t think so, head down to the ER.
Do you think there will be a cure in your lifetime—and if so, will you benefit from it?
Yes! I have to believe. Besides, it’s good motivation to get out of bed in the morning and keep moving forward. Nothing worth having comes easy, right?
What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?
“Integrate HIV into your life. If you let HIV be a tumor, an invader, a growth, then the burden is too heavy. Once it is a part of your life (and not the sum total of your life), HIV becomes more manageable. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, so enjoy today while you work on creating the tomorrow you want.”
to read this article as it
appeared in the June 2011 issue.
read more of our "30 Years of AIDS" coverage.
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