I was in the fifth grade, and it was "Just Say No!" Day. There
was an old fellow warning us about the obvious evils of drug use:
"It's a crime," "It will ruin your life," etc. That day my best
friend and I made a pact never to get involved in the world of
experimental drugs. We even shook hands to seal our promise.
As it turned out, my negatoid buddy was not committed to the
cause: In the decade since our pact, every drug known to humankind
has probably taken an extended tour of his body. But me? I'm still
holding true to that adolescent agreement made many years ago. Only
these days, most of my friends see that as a big mistake.
I have never been on any HIV drug regimens. Having lived with
this virus for more than 10 years, I feel that my body must be doing
something right. While I'd like to claim that I am making a
rational, informed decision, I must admit that part of my viewpoint
on modern medicine has been shaped by my own dark and dastardly
experience of it. I was born with hemophilia, and what happened when
I turned to modern medicine to get me out of my jam? Hepatitis B,
hepatitis C and HIV. Not that I'm bitter. I accept my fate, whatever
it may be, quite readily. But to be pressured by the very ones who
should understand my plight -- my fellow brothers and sisters of the
Positoid Guard -- is too much.
The first time I went to an HIV support group, immediately after
I informed them about my trials and tribulations as a long-term
survivor, came the question: "So what medications are you on?"
I stared at my feet. My feet stared back. "I'm not currently on
any positoid protocol," I finally said.
"What?!" they shrieked. Suddenly I saw myself on my
deathbed. For a moment, I felt like I was not in control of my life,
the same way you feel when you're first told that you've joined the
ranks of the infected. But then I realized that I'm the only person
who fully understands my pet virus. I think it's quite evident that
HIV is every positoid's own personal viral adventure.
The truth of the matter is, I just can't do the meds right now.
Call me stubborn, because I am -- I fear change and I fear the
unknown, and both fears are guaranteed to be a part of the equation
if I sign up for a supply of hope capsules. But let's say I do get
hooked on the junk someday and my health (not necessarily my
numbers) improves as a result. That would be great. I would go disco
dancing every night, and I would also have the energy for
neighborhood pranks. On the other hand, what if my numbers improve,
while my health stays the same? That would suck -- though I'd get
lots of "Hurrahs!" at my group.
Above all, I want to keep my peace of mind -- even if that means
chopping a few years off my lifespan. I know how I'm feeling now,
and it would be a lie to say that I am the picture of perfect
health. My main problem is a severe lack of energy, which is why
three years ago I accepted Social Security Insurance at the
precocious age of 19. What I like to say about my energy level is, I
have enough to do the things in life that I want to do, but not
enough to do the things that no one wants to do.
And it's true. I'm comfortable with my imperfections as they are,
and I have a constant excuse to be "one with the couch," as a good
friend puts it. What I am uncomfortable with is the notion of
jumping into this bizarre world of experimental drug use. People in
white jackets are combining meds in the same manner that children
snap together Legos -- a random attempt at creating something
I love the steps that have been made recently in the world of HIV
meds. I have friends whose lives have been saved by the designer
chemicals unavailable to them two years ago. I also have friends who
are burnt out by the realization that no three- or 33-drug combo
will prolong their lives.
For my own rescue from the madness of my reckless positoid
lifestyle, I am going to honor that pact I made on "Just Say No!"
Day way back when -- at least until this headline blazes across the
nightly news: "Breakthrough Super-Pill to Cure Multiviral
Then -- and only then -- will I become whacked out on drugs.