I’m HIV-Positive, and I Have No Interest in News About HIV Cures

There is already a way to eradicate HIV/AIDS, and Pa. is pretty good at it. Too bad it’s politically impossible to implement nationally.

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Philadelphia is all atwitter currently with news out of Temple University that researchers there have gotten a step closer to a so-called cure for HIV. Basically, medical researchers are doing their jobs. Being medical researchers, though, they need to gin up some interest and rationale for more funding, so they’ve decided to recklessly issue a statement so slippery you can’t exactly disagree with it: “This is one important step,” says Temple’s Dr. Kamel Khalili, “on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS.”

Thanks to those four little letters — “cure” — many journalists who have no experience or strong understanding about HIV/AIDS are writing about HIV/AIDS and society is yet again unfurling the “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner. HIV/AIDS is about to be over! Will the last the person out please shut off the lights? Thanks.

Most people are zooming by the fact that this Temple discovery has no relevance to people living today or even in the near future; the discovery is simply a “proof of concept” with a completely uncertain future use, particularly if it’s anything like past “steps on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS.” More on that later.




In fact, because everyone HIV-negative, including the media, generally ignores HIV/AIDS, I’m now going to have to explain what HIV/AIDS actually is: HIV is a virus that attacks human immune system cells, called CD4 or “T-Cells,” and tells them to stop reproducing and, instead, produce HIV cells.

That’s all it does.

You can imagine what happens: Now producing a lot of HIV cells, instead of immune system CD4 cells, people with untreated HIV start getting sick easily and most eventually die of opportunistic infections like pneumonia. That’s what AIDS is: A likely fatal condition brought about by HIV. HIV is the virus, AIDS is the medical condition.

Here’s what you probably don’t know, though: There is no reason any HIV-positive Americans should develop AIDS today.

This development out of Temple is one important step toward a permanent cure for AIDS just like my taking my medication is also one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS. After all, my single pill taken once a day prevents me from developing AIDS. It also coincidentally prevents me from transmitting HIV to anyone else, too (and of course, this protection is strongest when used in conjunction with condoms). My life expectancy is basically the same as though I were HIV-negative.

Still, there’s a huge implication in my proposed cure for AIDS: I first must know that I’m HIV-positive. Then, I must take my single pill, once a day precisely as described for the rest of my life and not miss or skip doses. This means I need to have uninterrupted healthcare access and pharmaceutical benefits even if I can’t afford them.

Here in Pennsylvania, we’ve done a pretty stellar job of doing this. After all, the program that helps HIV-positive people like me, the Special Pharmaceutical Benefits Program or SPBP, grants HIV-related medication and care for free to anyone making less than about $60,000 annually. We’re unlike most states in the nation in this regard: You don’t have to be on skid row to obtain free healthcare if you’re HIV-positive in Pennsylvania, because neutralizing HIV to where it doesn’t develop into AIDS saves lives and money in the long run for all Pennsylvanians.

I can’t transmit HIV to anyone else. I won’t develop AIDS. My quality of life is the same as an HIV-negative person's. I’m going to probably live as long as anyone else who smokes a pack of Camels a day. Yet, even these smart, and generous, policies aren’t enough if people don’t have proper opportunity or access to healthcare: Philadelphia’s Office of HIV Planning says that 18 percent of newly diagnosed HIV-positive folks aren’t linked up with treatment within 90 days of knowing they’re HIV-positive.

Nationwide, we have a serious problem getting people tested for HIV; and, if they’re HIV-positive, getting them into treatment and staying in treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 16 percent of HIV-positive people in the United States don’t know they’re HIV-positive. So, they’re running around “just putting the tip in” not realizing what they’re potentially doing.

You can’t blame HIV-positive people, though, for systemic problems in America in terms of HIV stigma, which partly explains why people are afraid or won’t test for HIV; or poor healthcare access, which partly explains why people don’t get tested for HIV and why, if they’re HIV-positive, they might develop AIDS.

Still, explaining all that isn’t sexy or interesting like my running around Philly saying, “I’m taking an important step toward the cure for HIV/AIDS!” Nobody’s really interested in a long-winded explanation or verbal gymnastics to rationalize their nonsensical “cure” language. So, we’d rather condense 50 qualifying facts and put them into four little letters: “Cure.” It’s a needless, and unfortunate, distraction from our society’s ability to stop AIDS today.

Cure language is reckless because now we’re all jumping to conclusions, ignoring reality and history. Yet again, everyone has decided that HIV/AIDS is going to be over soon, and they’re ready to move on to more pleasant things. That’s pretty much the 30-year history of HIV/AIDS in a nutshell.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the historical record.

In 1984, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler said to the press, “We hope to have a vaccine [for HIV/AIDS] ready for testing in about two years.” Heckler, too, was starry-eyed about man’s taming the universe, rightly surmising that back then we were at the pinnacle of scientific progress. “Yet another terrible disease is about to yield to patience, persistence, and outright genius.”

Outright genius, indeed. Heckler wasn’t entirely wrong: In terms of human history, in 1984, that year was the apex of scientific progress, just like how in 2014, this year is the pinnacle of human scientific progress. In fact, if we ever have a day in which we’re stepping backward scientifically, we’ve probably got some serious problems as a society.

We all watched with rapt attention last year with cure language, too. “Mississippi Baby Born with HIV ‘Functionally Cured,’ Doctors Say,” read the headline on ABC News. The story exploded, and we started unfurling the “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner again. This was a bit premature: The baby wasn’t “functionally cured.” Turns out that she’s now HIV-positive, but you probably didn’t hear about that.

How about Timothy Ray Brown aka the “Berlin Patient” who was “cured” of HIV/AIDS last decade with an astronomically costly and dangerous stem cell procedure? The entire scientific community agrees that it’s, at best, impractical for everyone else who isn’t Timothy Ray Brown and, at worst, fatal for most 7 billion human beings walking planet earth.

So, everyone, really, stop unfurling the “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner. Cures are nice just like dreaming about flying cars is nice. But, unless George Jetson is driving my ass around Center City, I think I’ll focus on walking and riding SEPTA.

More to the point: I have no interest in “cures” because we already have a way to eradicate HIV/AIDS in this country, and we’re simply choosing not to do it because of politics. Instead of making the hard decisions that would allow us to stop this virus from affecting more lives, we’d rather wistfully dream about fantasies that never come to fruition.

If we were actually serious in this country about ending AIDS and preventing HIV, we’d have a national effort guaranteeing unfettered access to healthcare services and medication for those people living with HIV. More importantly, we’d make it easy to obtain these services as it is in Pennsylvania. We have the ability to do it, but because of conservative nonsense about “starving the government beast,” it’s politically impossible.

So, as a society, our collective daydreaming is much more fun than our getting to work solving problems.

Follow @jawshkruger on Twitter.

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  • Flabbergasted

    What a naive and grossly oversimplified account of the actions of the HIV virus in the human body. Before you write about such a complex issue, perhaps you could speak to experts in the field. Just because someone is living with the virus (i.e., Mssr. Kruger) does not make them an expert – or the spokesperson for those with HIV. This is full of disinformation and I hope people more knowledgeable that Mssr. Kruger step up and rebut this childish posting.

  • Gravely Concerned

    This article is highly irresponsible. Being “undetectable” does not mean one cannot transmit the virus. As this link from the CDC clearly shows (see: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/prevention/research/art/), the virus may spike at any time and exist at different levels in various bodily fluids other then the blood tested for viral load levels, so that transmission may still occur even with an “undetectable” viral load. I urge everyone to consult with a medical expert and discuss your options before assuming that “undetectable” means you no longer need to protect your partner from exposure to the virus.

    • Just the facts

      Josh is right. The latest science on HIV transmission is that an HIV+ person who is undetectable and on a daily meds regiment can not transmit the virus to another person. Just the facts.

      • Mike Oneill

        Results not due until 2017. Period. This is not science. This is scientific results that yet prove to be 100% true…or in this case, enough % to risk putting every person with HIV on this drug/pill to obtain an undetectable viral load, and have the arrogant sick mindset that you “can’t transmit” HIV? Wow.

      • Pippy

        Direct quotes from the article Josh Linked.

        “No transmissions is not the same as zero chance of transmission.”

        You did read that article right? “At most 4% per year”… not zero. Lower than with no suppressive therapy by far, encouraging news certainly, but not zero!

        “we need to be cautious about what it has proved, and, as Jens Lundgren pointed out, it will probably never be possible to show with mathematical certainty that the risk of transmission from someone on successful HIV therapy is absolutely zero.”

        For reference, your chance of dying in a car accident is .00567%/year (1 in 17,625)(source NSC-2002). Makes 4%/ year seem like a lot (700 times as likely in fact). Ever hear of anyone being killed in a car accident? It happens.

        “I can’t transmit HIV to anyone else.”….is not true. Scientific Facts.

    • leathermanmikie
      • quinyus

        23 idiots don’t agree with scientific facts sorry I meant 24 my bad gravely concerned or should I say “gravely mistaken”

      • Otto Parts

        “Viral load suppression means risk of HIV transmission is ‘at most’ 4% during anal sex, but final results not due till 2017.” That’s “no transmission?”

        “it will probably never be possible to show with mathematical certainty that the risk of transmission from someone on successful HIV therapy is absolutely zero.”

  • Name

    @Gravely Concerned – I completely agree with your statement. While the article holds some truth, being “undetectable” you can still transit the virus. Being married to someone who is HIV Positive, we still must make sure we are careful about practicing safe sex and are aware of any open cuts one another has, so we do not transit the virus to me. Having not had much known about HIV/AIDs, until my husband was diagnosed with it, I feel that our society needs to become more educated about HIV/AIDs in order to start losing the stigma that goes along with it and begin moving forward.

  • Pippy

    Irresponsible and incorrect. 1. “You can imagine what happens: Now producing a lot of HIV cells, instead of immune system CD4 cells,” Wrong, viruses are NOT cells. The virus infects a cell and uses it’s molecular machinery to replicate itself. They cannot replicate on their own. HIV is also able to incorporate and “hide” inside the DNA of those host cells, thus preventing it from being eliminated from the body, ever. This new study is a STEP (“four little letters”) toward being able to eliminate the virus from the body. 2. That pill you take every day came from the same research you mock in this article. The tests, treatments, and understanding of how HIV works all came from 30 years of research, a lot of research! I think we should keep working toward a “cure” even though there are failures along the way. 3. Drugs can become ineffective over time. Google antibiotic resistance if you need an example. That pill you will be taking the rest of your life may stop working over time. Many people develop resistance to the drugs they take. You will be thankful for new discoveries when/if that happens to you. 4. Gravely Concerned makes an important point. Read that information.

    • quinyus

      Sometimes yes

  • pippin

    You have lost a subscriber by censoring my comment and publishing the factually flawed article.

    • leathermanmikie

      try again then ;) And please, by all means, list your (current) sources that refute the info in this article

      • Gravely Concerned

        The facts are plain. This article is simply not based on science. See http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/prevention/research/art/. I am very disheartened that it was even published. The editors have done a serious disservice to the HIV community.

        • Gravely Concerned

          See alsohttp://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/22/hiv-breakthrough-reveals-virus-hidden-in-immune-system-cells. Mr. Kruger’s argument simply is not based on science. Undetectable doesn’t mean you are free of the virus or unable to transmit it. When will Mr. Kruger stop engaging in wish fulfillment, and actually conduct some research before writing an article?

          • quinyus

            Yours is based on 4% BULLSHIT and fear and ignorance stop posting

          • Gravely Concerned

            Afraid of science are we? And where did you get your medical degree? Where did Mr. Kruger get his? Since when does having HIV instantly qualify you to dispense advice of such a serious nature?

          • Mike Oneill

            4% = people still getting infected. Results not due until 2017. And we’re talking about a “can an EMT wear gloves while treating a patient” … we’re talking about encouraging the same mindset that got us into this mess: unprotected gay anal sex, anal or unprotected sex with prostitutes, and sharing needles. To promote that this yet-to-be-proven study is RECKLESS.

          • Anon

            The CDC article is slightly outdated and ers on the side of being overtly cautious. Recent studies have shown that someone who is undetectable has a statistically impossible chance of infecting their partner. I know this from experience. My partner is positive and I am not. We have been together for several years, are exclusive, and do not use condoms. There was one point where he had a small spike in his viral load, but since he was going to the doctor regularly he spotted it immediately before it posed any threat to me.

          • Andy

            I’m glad you are healthy, but your story is an single case anecdote and in no way to be extrapolated to a “statistically impossible chance” of transmitting this disease.

        • J. Prince

          The CDC’s studies are bullshit. These are the same people who called it “Gay-related Immune Disease” when it came out. The same Cassandras who worked there when SARS and Swine Flu were declared the next human-decimating black plagues of the 21st century still work there today, periodically revising articles such as those for grammar errors or updating source links rather than the actual outdated medical info contained within. Many of those articles were written over 15 years ago. Get your head out of your proverbial ass and change your name. “Gravely Concerned”, what kind of sanctimonious, faux-populist BS is that.

      • Pippin

        “This means that the maximum likely chance of transmission from someone on fully suppressive HIV therapy was 2% a year for vaginal sex with ejaculation, 2.5% for receptive anal sex, and 4% for receptive anal sex with ejaculation.”

        “…Jens Lundgren pointed out, it will probably never be possible to show with mathematical certainty that the risk of transmission from someone on successful HIV therapy is absolutely zero.”

        Quoted from the study you linked. 2%, 2.5% and 4% is NOT Zero!!! Look, it is certainly a huge plus to be on suppressive therapy, but in an article decrying false hope, it is simply wrong to make these statements as fact.

  • Jambi

    This “article” (I guess it’s more of an opinion) while making some good points about testing, adherence, the sorry state of healthcare in the US, etc, unfortunately comes across as the cynical, misguided, jaded rant of a long time survivor of HIV who’s been once (well, quite a bit more than once) burned, is now twice shy and who evidently believes everyone else should take on the same emotional baggage as him. Sure, there has been plenty of the over promise / under deliver nonsense over the years in regards to “the cure”, but any objective evaluation of the scientific evolution and progress over the last >30 years in regards to this disease can only be stated as incredible. We’ve gone from automatic death sentence to nearly full life expectancy. Like in many other areas of modern life, the science and associated technology continues to build upon itself and advance at an ever quickening pace while enduring a few setbacks and unforeseen challenges along the way. So logically why wouldn’t this also apply to curative strategies as well? The pathway from AZT to Dolutegravir wasn’t exactly a smoothly paved Autobahn it would be safe to assume.

    Look, no one is saying that anyone should blow off getting tested, be irresponsible with med adherence, or put their life on hold while waiting for “the cure”, but one of the themes of this article seems to be “hope is for the stupid” and that’s simply both ignorant of the state of current science, gene therapy approaches in particular, as well as thinly veiled and irrational pessimism masquerading as objective realism. No thank you on both counts.

    • Andy

      Thank you, Jambi, for your calm and considered thoughts on this topic.

      • Guest

        “…comes across as the cynical, misguided, jaded rant of a long time survivor of HIV who’s been once (well, quite a bit more than once) burned.” Josh has only been HIV+ for about five years, Not a long time, really.

    • Otto Parts

      Long time? Not really. Just a few years.

      • Jambi

        What are you talking about?

        • Otto Parts

          “…comes across as the cynical, misguided, jaded rant of a long time survivor of HIV who’s been once (well, quite a bit more than once) burned.” Josh has been HIV+ for less than 5 years.

          • Jambi

            Ah. Gotcha.

        • J. Prince

          He’s addressing your assertion that the article’s author is a “long time survivor.” He certainly is not, having had it for no more than “just a few years.” Seems fairly straightforward as replies go.

  • WhiteJesus®

    Wow…the guy who wrote this sure sounds bitter.

    • quinyus

      Just a moron who doesn’t understand how this virus effects men who ARE NOT GAY!!! And women who actually want to well start families and actually be responsible adults.

      • Ron

        i’m bi but thank you for your comment, i sincerely agree with you! thanks man.

      • J. Prince

        Let’s review how it affects those two demographics.

        1) Being HIV-positive and heterosexual essentially spells the end of your sex life, unless you manage to find another seropositive woman (via specialized websites for the purpose) who is willing to engage you in that regard (many even in this predicament won’t).

        2) A positive woman can be impregnated and successfully bear seronegative children following a specifically-tailored HAART protocol, but it is not watertight. Moreover, the quantity of men willing to oblige them with a child is drastically smaller than with a negative woman, for obvious reasons.

        In short, it’s a state of affairs that can be manageable in a gay person, whose social & sexual life often unfolds in close proximity to people who have it. For a straight person, it’s usually a very lonely place due to the overwhelmingly stigma & ignorance associated with the status in the minds of the general population.

  • Lovinglife

    I have been with my partner for 10 years and have been living with HIV for 29 years, an AIDS diagnosis for 20 years and have an undetectable viral load. We have not used protection in a very long time and I have not transmitted the virus to him. Undetectable can mean “lowered risk of transmission” but not “no transmission”. We take our changes and luckily all is good. However, I would not recommend this to others there is always a risk.

  • Philadelphian

    Josh Kruger is a delusional buffoon who needs to get over himself.

  • TIMLA T MP

    A cure is useless because all humans are sick, why not cure cancer, sugar diabetic , high blood pressure and many other disease. 1 pill is enough, close the research and focus on educating black people we are not here to live for ever. we all passing so why worry about a cure.

    • J. Prince

      Cancer is curable. There just isn’t a global treatment for every variant of it. Many people have been treated and have seen no recurrence of the condition. Diabetes II is curable in some cases with lifestyle changes and a diet tailored for it. Type I is generally a genetic defect and can’t be cured for the same reasons autoimmune diseases can’t: A defect at the cellular level is impeding normal functioning of the pancreas. High blood pressure is not a disease, just a condition resulting from arterial hypertension, usually due to lifestyle choices and age.

      If you’re going to spew a bunch of various health problems and try to pigeonhole the one in this article with them, at least make sure they’re somehow connected.

  • Michelle

    Yeah speak for yourself. I can’t wait for a cure. It’s not so much because of the HIV, but the social stigma that has prevented me from getting a second date in five years. Sure I feel fine haven’t been sick a day, but I’ve also been lonely because I want to settle down with someone but no one wants to take the chance because I have HIV. No other reason why. I’m deadly. Too much for them too deal with. I’d do anything to get rid of those disease.

  • Ron Jacobsonn

    and then you have the stealthers, ones who follow their victims over time and get off on when they die and being told on a chat site they love muscle guys when they get skinny and unable to perform like they used to. its so sad, and yes, HIV causes inflammation which will put you at risk for cancers and heart disease, and organ failure in general. its very sad and my “killer” is more than 2 x my age.

  • http://dontgettested.blogspot.com/ Tomás Brewster

    Church is in session! Viral loads, T-cells, grape kool-aid and surrogate laboratory numbers..when will this debate ever end? The end of HIV?AID$..occupy and shutdown the corrupt American Center for Disease Control and the NIH..then this 30 year old ritual amongst gay men will die.

  • J.r. Graff

    What we should be doing is mandating HIV testing of basically everyone in this country and encourage all other countries to do the same – a worldwide effort, over the course of, say, 5 years to test everyone at least once every 6 – 12 months regardless of their personal/social background. This business of “1-6 people with HIV doesn’t know it” doesn’t belong in our language given our technology, education and abilities as the dominate intellectual species on this planet. Mandatory HIV testing of everyone would work better because too many people can and do opt it. Until this country actually GETS REAL about the virus and faces it head-on [instead of brushing it under the rug as we currently ARE doing ] then it’s only going to get worse. Let’s amend the Affordable Care Act to require testing and no longer allow patients to have permission to be tested. Test everyone outright. And if you disagree with me, well, we can also discuss the millions of people out there claiming they’re “Negative”, have multiple partners for unsafe sex — and never really do get tested.

  • Otto Parts

    Undetectable ≠ destroyed. 99% ≠ 100%. It’s really that simple. HAART and PrEP are near miracles for someone like me, who’s lived with HIV/AIDS for over 20 years, but they’re not perfect. Given the choice between a once-a-day pill for the rest of my life and a cure, I’ll take the cure, please.

    Oh, and by the way, HIV infection is a medical condition. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000602.htm

    This article is simply irresponsible click-bait, as well as sadly dismissive of those who’ve lived with HIV for any length of time. Perhaps Mr. Kruger should stick to writing about his love of Wawa, and Philly Mag should leave medical #journalism to someone who knows what they’re talking about.

  • vostok

    This article sidesteps a serious flaw in the author’s logic, namely, the tragedy of the commons in the healthcare industry. The argument that to simply give everyone access to drugs that are very expensive is flawed by failing to provide the source of funding for this “unfettered access”. Who is going to pay for the impoverished’s access to HIV medications and regiments? You also ignore the cost of constant medical labs, doctor visits, inpatient admissions and opportunistic infections these HIV patients have to live with. Who is going to pay for that? Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for these services to the impoverished since the amount of tax funding for these health care services is limited, and thus the dollar should go to where it is mot needed and not to these people who through their own inappropriate and promiscious behavior have contracted this terrible disease. I’m sorry, but if you get HIV then you should pay for it out of pocket. We are not in the 80s during the time HIV was known as GRID and hemophiliacs and an ignorant population was contracting this disease through no faults of their own. A majority of HIV patients who contract this disease today do so willingly – thus it is they who need to open up their wallets to pay for these healthcare services as long as they shall live.

    Health care Banker

    • Jarvis

      Another right wing fool heard from. *Yawn*.

      Hey, champ…your obese wife is driving up my healthcare costs. Let’s cut the sow off.

  • Negative Nancy

    Wow. So, taking toxic medication for the rest of your life is good enough for you, huh? I’d call that settling. What ever happened to positive (no pun intended) thinking?

    • Jambi

      Positive thinking is for fools.

      – Josh Kruger

  • Heather

    In Canada, we have socialized health care and most provinces have a disability program that will pay for your medications if you apply. HIV/AIDS organizations are pretty good at helping people navigate this application process and help to ensure that no one goes without meds for HIV due to lack of funds.

    However, some parts of our country (including the city I live in) have tons of new diagnoses. For us, a large part of prevention has to do with testing. I think I read that in Canada 25% of people with HIV don’t know it. It’s hard to get you on meds when you don’t know you’re poz. What’s really interesting is that the rate of not knowing your status is lower among men who have sex with men (closer to 20%). That number is still too high. We need to get people into the habit of testing and realizing, yes, there are high risk activities, but low risk is still a risk. Access to meds is only useful if people who are poz know it.

  • https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007936631809 Daniel Raso

    Hello, My name daniel raso, i want to give praise to Dr abiola who helped
    me to cure my HIV/AID disease, please help me to give thanks to him, he is
    a great man who God send from heaven to save people’s life, this man also
    save the life of my people who have HIV/AID, please thank this man for me,
    also if you have any type of problem you can also contact him to help you
    out on it, he is a powerful man, contact him at
    deadly.diseases.cure@hotmail.com

  • https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007936631809 Daniel Raso

    Hello, My name daniel raso, i want to give praise to Dr abiola who helped
    me to cure my HIV/AID disease, please help me to give thanks to him, he is
    a great man who God send from heaven to save people’s life, this man also
    save the life of my people who have HIV/AID, please thank this man for me,
    also if you have any type of problem you can also contact him to help you
    out on it, he is a powerful man, contact him at
    deadly.diseases.cure@hotmail.com

    ‘,lk
    //.