Aloha! Life’s A Beach

As a long-term nonprogressor (LTNP) living healthy and without an opportunistic infection since being diagnosed in December 1984, I found LeRoy Whitfield’s column, "Marathon Man" [May 2002], right on the money. Being 41 years old with 1,326 T cells, it remains a mystery to me -- and to the doctors who have cared for me for years. They assure me that one reason is that I’ve never been reinfected with any other strain of this virus. I also have a healthy, nutrition- and exercise-filled, very low-stress lifestyle.

However, having more T cells than the person with HIV sitting next to me makes us no different. We’re all in the same boat, giving the same color blood in the same endless vials. I have never lost this perception of myself, nor have I lost compassion for anyone else living with this -- nonprogressors or those with full-blown AIDS. I’m not a Marathon Man by far. I am caring for myself each day at my own pace, with an open mind, very determined to remain healthy. Life can be a day at the beach.

-- Gene Thomas Stocks, Honolulu

It was great to read LeRoy Whitfield’s thoughts on being a long-term nonprogressor -- especially the interpersonal issues it raises among others with HIV. I identify with much of what he writes, and am grateful to still be alive when these issues seem to have settled down a little. I’ve noticed less use of divisive and painful terms like full-blown AIDS and only HIV now that many people who were once on the edge of death have returned to a place where their T-cell counts and viral loads no longer qualify them for disability.

On a less positive note, Whitfield wrote, “Will I find myself jealous of Walker’s LTNP poster child, whose virus has been undetectable since he tested positive in 1981?” There was no test for HIV in 1981 and no way to measure viral loads until well into the ’90s.

Congratulations to Whitfield on his stable health. This year, I’ll be celebrating 22 years with HIV and without an opportunistic infection. I’ve always believed that the other shoe doesn’t ever have to drop.

-- Scott T. Hanson, Portland, Maine

LeRoy Whitfield responds: Thanks, and you’re right: The sentence should have read “ believed to have been HIV positive and undetectable since 1981.”

Smoked Out

Alex MacDonald’s news piece, "Bush 2, MaryJane 0“ [May 2002], contained one sentence that may have confused readers. MacDonald wrote, ”In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal laws criminalizing the herb trump state law.“ In fact, the court issued a very narrow ruling declaring that distributors of medical marijuana cannot use a ”medical necessity" defense under federal law. As unfortunate as this was, it did not invalidate state medical-marijuana statutes, which protect patients from arrest under state law. Because 99 percent of marijuana arrests are made under state law, these laws continue to protect from arrest thousands of people battling AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses.

A bill introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, H.R. 2592, would end the federal war on state medical-marijuana programs. To find out more about this legislation, visit

-- Bruce Mirken, Marijuana Policy Project, Washington, DC

Alex MacDonald responds: While it is true that the arrests were made by federal agents in a state where distribution of marijuana for medical purposes is legal, the statement that federal laws trump state law is not accurate.

I am a heterosexual AIDS survivor, one of Canada’s first medical-marijuana exemptees and an instructor in the practice of growing “Dutch medicine.” For six years, the only way I’ve stayed off non-prescription drugs is by helping others sick and dying in my community. All of this while flying in the face of unjust laws -- which we are making moves to change. I hope to appear before the Senate Committee on Drug Policy. I’m out now and there’s no going back. I can no longer watch as my fellow citizens die or pay bikers for their medication.

-- Don Appleby, Via the Internet

Torch Singer

In your May 2002 "Mailbox," Mark Nowak asked how many of the Olympic torchbearers were HIV positive. I don’t know the number, but I do know that the inspirational stories of the HIV positive nominees were not overlooked by the regional torch-relay selection committees. I was selected by the Salt Lake Committee and recognized as a long-term survivor of HIV. I was also privileged to be the last noncelebrity torchbearer in this year’s relay, running several blocks before the Olympic stadium. It was a tremendous honor to run on behalf of all the people in the world with HIV.

-- Dennis J. Lee, Salt Lake City

Shrink Rap

I have noticed with each issue that POZ gets smaller and smaller. I also received notice from the state that I am no longer eligible for HIV medication assistance ["Drug Bust," February/March 2002]. That’s why I’m concerned about the shrinking of POZ. We need a publication that will start digging deep into these issues and giving ideas of how to fight against our problems. We do not need POZ if it cannot report the facts because it is supported by the drug industry. Is it difficult to get other businesses to advertise in POZ? If so, that’s a story POZ needs to report as well! PWAs need to know this information. We need to be fired up! How many of us will have to die before we get angry enough to fight -- not each other, but together -- and win?

-- Mark Hammann, Asheville, North Carolina

POZ responds: Like Oprah herself, POZ is sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller. However, unlike Oprah’s mag, which balloons with car, liquor and fashion ads, POZ is largely dependent on ads from the makers of AIDS drugs. Why doesn’t Calvin Klein pitch his panties in our pages? Ask him -- it’s certainly not for lack of trying on our part. Be that as it may, turn to page 39 for “Marketplace,” our budding non-drug ad section. Finally, we dare you to find a single example of POZ not reporting the facts -- about AIDS drugs or anything else -- because we fear our sponsors.

Send letters, including name, address and daytime phone number, to: The Editor, POZ, One Little West 12th St., 6th Flr., New York, NY 10014; or e-mail us at: Printed letters may be edited for length and clarity. We regret that we cannot answer all mail.