Thursday, December 22, 2011

My holiday message and hope for the new year

Christmas Day 1982 was a happy day in my life.  I was 5 years old, and my favorite present on this day was my pound puppy, glo worm, and my new bike.  This was also the year I started kindergarten, and I still remember my kindergarten teacher Ms.Cambell and learning my ABC’s via the “Animal People”.
This was also the year I learned to swim, and my Dad taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels. I would play my Atari and Coleco Vision all day, I loved those games frogger and donky kong!  I had one of the hottest hot wheels around, and a huge collection of Garbage Pail Kids and match box cars.
I would play and watch TV all day. I couldn’t get enough of Tom and Jerry, Sesame St, and Mr Rogers.  When it was not my turn to watch TV I would watch MASH with my Father and General Hospital with my Mom. 
I looked forward to sleep overs at my cousins on the weekends, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, MJ on MTV, Saturday morning bowling with my Mom and Dad, roller skating, riding my hot wheel, trading garbage pail kids and riding the merry go round at the park near my house, and  I remember nearly daily shopping trips to the mall with my Mother.
As a child growing up in the 80’s I was definitely the epitome of a Toy’s R Us Kid, and a total MJ and Nicolodian fan.  I was oblivious to what was happening in the big World around me. Aren’t we all at that age?  My Parent’s did a good job at shielding me from all the sorrow and negativity that was going on in the World. All the while, my parents, hoping my future would only know joy and happiness. 
As I was turning 5 and continued growing up in the 80’s; AIDS began to rear its ugly head and spread with vengeance.  By the beginning of July 1982 a total of 452 cases, from 23 states, had been reported to the CDC, and then the disease began spreading Worldwide. Much of the 80’s was spent figuring out this disease and how best to treat it and In the 90’s came the dreaded AZT treatments.

By January 1st 1995, a cumulative total of a million cases of AIDS had been reported to the World Health Organization Global Programme on AIDS. Eighteen million adults and 1.5 million children were estimated to have been infected with HIV since the beginning of the epidemic. Later in the month the CDC announced that in the US, AIDS had become the leading cause of death amongst all Americans aged 25 to 44.

30 years later the disease is still rearing its ugly head with approximately 56,000 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year. That equivilates to one person in the United States becoming newly infected with HIV every 9 1/2 minutes. Through 2007, more than 576,000 people with AIDS in the US have died since the epidemic began

Globally, since the first cases of AIDS were reported in 1981, infection of HIV has grown to pandemic proportions, resulting in an estimated 65 million infections and 25 million deaths. During 2005 alone, an estimated 2.8 million persons died from AIDS, 4.1 million were newly infected with HIV, and 38.6 million were living with HIV.

Researchers throughout the World but particularly right here in the United States are working tirelessly to finally eradicate this illness.  Never have we been as close to a cure as we are now.
With the advent of new drugs scientists have been able to suppress new infections to a point where the disease becomes undetectable.  And Scientists have been able to identify reservoirs in our bodies where latent HIV hides and where current medicine cannot get at. In an e mail communication with Dr David Margolis; within the next few years studies will be rolling out in Chapel Hill, NC targeting these reservoirs. This is another step towards the cure.
We learned In 2011 that HIV + individuals on anti-retroviral therapy are 97 percent less likely to pass HIV to a partner, and just in the past couple days the FDA has approved an HIV Vaccine to be used in clinical trials. We are getting close!
Until we get to that cure; those of us infected or affected by HIV/AIDS across the World must keep fighting, not just for our livelihood, but for upcoming generations.  Keep advocating, keep educating yourself and the public, volunteer, have safe sex, keep on top of your health, and donate if you can to a couple of my favorite organizations AMFAR or the ADAP Advocacy Association.
In closing, I have two wishes this Christmas and New Year. My first wish is that my Mother gets off the respirator soon, and that she returns to better health, and get's the lung transplant she so desperately needs. She has hung in there for so long, I love you so much and I am glad that you have made it to another Christmas, keep fighting mom!! 
My other wish is that we will continue to get closer to finding a cure for HIV/AIDS and that these acronyms will soon be written into history.
Today; to those survivors who have lived with the illness longer than I, and particularly to those who have lived with the virus 20 + years; I applaud and look up to you. Your advocacy and courage in the early years of this epidemic are the reason I am alive today to tell my story, to reach out to others, as you have done, and to spread the message of the importance of knowing ones HIV AND Hepatitis C status.

Sometimes I wish, just for a day, that I was 5 again.
Happy holidays and may everyone in this World only know peace, happiness, prosperity and good health in the coming year.

Kevin Maloney
"Voice in unity strengthening community"
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