It was one chance in 200,000. Less than that really, the number of new cases per year is less than 200,000. The diagnosis is still shocking. It is a gut punch, that for a while leaves you breathless, or so Danny said when they told him. He said his brain went in two opposite directions at the same time. The rational, sensible side knew this to be a situation he could deal with. The emotional side panicked. It took a while and some physicians who had done this more than once for the rational side to come out on top.
We have reached the place where the HIV virus can be controlled. Living with the disease is manageable and on balance, you’re more likely to die of something else, yet there is still a residual something in people’s reactions.
I thought Danny handled things well. He took the time to work it out for himself before going public. Even though HIV is no longer a death sentence, there’s still a huge adjustment to make.
The first step is getting the drug regimen down. There’s more than one drug available, and they do have side effects and they affect people in different ways. Danny was incredibly sick on some of the drugs and there was a short time when he could never be more than four feet from a bathroom, ever.
But after a while, he and the physicians got the right cocktail for him and things began to get markedly better. His viral load diminished. Watching it go down month after month was the biggest boost you can imagine. As the viral load dropped, his belief that this demon would be put back in its box grew proportionally. It took time but now it is undetectable.
Living with it
Danny is a smart guy. He talked to people who have lived with the virus for many years. He made new friends, and he began to see where he fit in. All of us know someone who has needed help, but now Danny joined the support group and before long he was one of the ones taking the calls on the hotline. So typical of him to be the one supporting others. And every day he took his meds, but then how many millions take meds every day. It’s just not that big of a deal.
When Danny told his family, they reacted well given the circumstances. But they didn’t really understand. But why would they? Who really knows about any disease other than superficially. It is not until you come close to a disease that you really begin to understand what it means for a loved one to have it.
It turns out we still need education
There are people walking around living a full life in the US who have the virus and no one else knows it. That’s a mark of success if ever there was one. Obviously, we still need a lot more education, because HIV could be made to go away.