Driving into work today and thinking of spring, it occurred to me that I most likely seroconverted in April, 30 years ago. It could have happened before, but that spring of 1984 was the only time I remember being very ill with many of the symptoms of seroconversion. It was at a time when I was trying to finish all my college finals and projects so I could graduate. The college doctor wasn’t sure why I was so sick but dosed me up on cortisone so I could finish my classes and get my degree in May. It also fits with the typical AIDS timeline. Some 7 years later my T cells had fallen below 200 and my health had declined. I personally think it is strange to remember the anniversary dates for not-so-good things that happen in my life. So, I prefer to say I am a long term survivor and leave it at that—no dates, no years. But every spring my mind goes back to 1984, shortly after having met my first partner, and I wonder how my life might have been different if I had not become infected then.
Apart from that association, spring has always been a time of renewal for me. Spring makes me feel excited, giddy and full of hope. Especially after this year’s long, harsh winter I am more than ready to see the first signs of spring arrive. When spring does start to unfold, I know I will feel like I am coming out of the cocoon I lived in all winter. I will be ready to turn into a majestic butterfly--full of hope and joy and possibilities. It is at these times I wish I could leave my HIV in the cocoon I am escaping. But my HIV follows me into spring, and into my own season of growth and rebirth.
Kite flying in spring is celebrated in many cultures and April is even national kite month. When I was a kid we were given kites to celebrate the coming of spring. I remember participating in family kite flying competitions. Part of the strategy was to experiment with the kite tails. As you may already know, kite tails are necessary to keep the kite stable and pointing in the right direction. Remembering those times, I think of managing my HIV like putting the tail on the kite. I take my meds every day, see my HIV doctor and get lab work done on a regular basis to try and stay healthy. Even though I do not want to live with HIV, managing my HIV is necessary to keep my life stable and pointing in the right direction.
I still dream of an arrival of spring when I will no longer have to think about HIV or about being careful not to miss my daily meds that suppress my HIV. As presented at the International AIDS Society 2013, a study showed that an injectable integrase inhibitor and an injectable form of the NNRTI rilpivirine could be administered with monthly or quarterly doses and maintain effective levels of plasma concentrations of the drugs. Although more research is needed, the thought is that these injections could be an effective treatment for HIV-infected patients that could replace daily pills, and may even be used as long-lasting PrEP. Starting each spring with an injection to control my HIV would be almost as good as leaving my HIV behind for good in my winter cocoon. Regardless of how fantastic that may be, I will still anxiously await the arrival of a spring when the cure for HIV is behind us. I cannot even imagine the joy of that future April. But the thought of it makes me smile with anticipated glee.