Letters to the Editor for April 3, 2013

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In response  to Tony Adams’ article, "Papal White Smoke Poisonous for Gay Catholics"

Good day,

So sad, the article “Papal White Smoke Poisonous for Gay Catholics”. As a Catholic gay man I found this writing, insulting and disrespectful to me and my faith, but at best ‘typical and tacky’ of activist who seemingly HAVE to release their verbal venom. It only took hours before I was receiving calls and website articles screaming……“What a horrible choice for Pope”…..for GAYS! Since when have ‘gay issues’ become a priority to any church, faith, temple or belief. Gay men and women are being persecuted, beheaded and tortured and imprisoned in many parts of the world, how bout attacking those leaders, dictators and clergy ? The Catholic Church is always an easy target and seldom defends itself against these attacks. Do you REALLY think gay folks in Darfur, and other suffering countries are concerned about ‘gay marriage’ when they don’t have clean water to drink? Better half the Vatican be sold and given to those who really need basic substance and freedom to LIVE.

Most of the article was anticipated and predictable, sounded angry and jaded from a ’use to be a practicing Catholic” (I’m only assuming here)

but attacking one’s disability (whether the Pope’s or any other person‘s ) re: He has only one lung to spew” - now that was not respectful, kind, caring nor loving - hmm, all the those things that WE gay folk seek for ourselves.

Respectfully submitted, my opinion.

George T. Roman

Hollywood, Florida

HIV Diaries

Dear Ryan,

Thanks for your honest and revealing blog, "My HIV Diary."  In this week's edition (Week 29, "Over It") you admitted that you'd stopped taking your antiretroviral medications for a week.  This reality — that guys living with HIV get burnt out, and take drug holidays — is not generally acknowledged.  While I worry about the impact of this drug holiday on you personally, I'm glad that your column has shined a light on this issue.

For any of your readers who don't know, the basic problem is this: In the hours since a last dose of your regimen, your body is progressively clearing out the medicines.  Each of the different drugs in a multi-drug regimen has a different time to clearance (this is usually true even if you take a single pill regimen containing all the medicines in one pill).  After your liver filters the other medicines out of your body, the one that's left is now basically trying to fight HIV by itself. (This is called monotherapy. The early days when doctors prescribed just AZT showed us how ineffective any one drug is against HIV).

The virus can then beat up on the one drug left in the bloodstream, mutating against it so that when a person decides to start taking their pills again, the regimen won't work as well, if at all.  A few years ago, one large study found that some people who missed their doses or dosing time too often burned through all available medications in just six years.  While that's the cost of missing pills, your blog points out that there's a psychological cost of taking them.  Undertaking HIV treatment starts a lifelong commitment.  You become married to your HIV pills.  And until some future day that science makes a huge leap forward, at this time, you can't get a divorce.

There's a big push in the medical literature and at conferences now to get people living with HIV into early treatment (not just earlier than "too late," but earlier than nation's official recommendation).  There's also a simultaneous push for guys to take these medicines in advance, to keep them from catching HIV in the first place.  If a lifelong commitment to HIV meds is hard to keep even amongst guys fighting against an aggressive virus, how committed will people feel if they’re doing something that’s “optional” or "early"?

There have been tremendous advances in HIV medicines these past six years. But the medicines can't fight HIV unless they are taken.  Your blog opens a discussion about why that's not always as simple as it sounds.

Best regards,

Stephen J. Fallon, Ph.D.

Dear Ryan,

I happened to catch two of your recent episodes of “My HIV Diary” (Week 28 & 29) published in SFGN.

I’m writing to you because I’m also HIV+ and I had a reaction of genuine concern when you wrote that you stopped taking your medications.

A person facing a health issue of any kind would be wise to research and educate themselves thoroughly on the subject of their condition.  You should be a proactive participant in planning your own care, and you should be making fully informed decisions when you consent to treatment or decline it.  It can be a big mistake to entirely surrender your healthcare to the control of others.

I can’t encapsulate into this letter the abundant scientific and medical reasons for you to continue taking your medication.  So instead, I will share a true short story.

I was HIV-negative in the 1990s. Some friends were HIV+, and I lost a few of them to AIDS prior to the mid-1990s availability of Highly Active Anti Retroviral Therapy (‘HAART’ or ‘the cocktail’).

One HIV+ friend, who I will call “RJB”, looked great and seemed fine in the late 1990s, and I assumed he was on the medications.  But around that time, he confided in me that he was not taking any HIV medications.  At the time, my HIV knowledge was a fraction of what I know now, yet I still knew enough to realize that he was making a dangerous choice.  I asked him why he wasn’t taking meds.  He said that he tried them, but they made him feel shitty.  I asked him how long he stayed on them during the period that he tried them.  He said, “a few weeks, but I just didn’t like it”. I told him it can take months for the body to adjust to the side effects of strong medications and that he needed to tough it out longer than a few weeks.  He refused.  I warned him that he was making a serious mistake.  I stayed on him about this for months, but he continued to refuse.  Several years later he abruptly broke out with lesions on his skin, and the Kaposi Sarcoma (HIV-related cancer) had already metastasized and spread to his lungs.  It was then too late for HIV medications to protect him.  “RJB” died soon after.  This did not have to happen.  There is no question whatsoever that he would be alive and well today if he took my advice when I offered it to him.

Today there are many more and better drugs in the arsenal of weapons against HIV.  This means that there are combinations available that will work effectively with reduced side effects.  There is also promising research into better alternative methods that may become available in the foreseeable future.  The goal is always to protect and preserve your immune system.

In the meantime, to be diagnosed and treated A.S.A.P. makes a crucial difference in prognosis and outcome for all.  Recent news further confirms this. Use the arsenal to “HIT HARD & HIT EARLY”.

So, I hope you will re-think your decision to stop taking your meds.  We already have a severe shortage of cute and functioning guys in the HIV+ community, so we really can’t afford to lose the few we have remaining.  Hang in there and best of luck.



Dear Editor,

Bullying has been a top item of the LGBT rights agenda for the last few years. Although issues have progressed and law makers and non-profits are getting involved, this epidemic continues to exist. I believe that we need to get to the source of why bullying exists in order to address the problem. It is assumed by many that bullies are deeply insecure and they project their feelings of insecurity on easy targets.. But what if it is so much more than that? Are we ready as a society to really talk about why our kids are bullying their classmates even though they know right from wrong? I do agree that self-confidence and self-worth is part of the problem. Kids often act out what they have seen at home. I am not saying that we should blame everything on the parents, however; we need to realize that they need to be a part of the conversation. These kids who are bullying should be evaluated by a social worker or any type of mental health counselor. We also need to teach children emotional intelligence. These kids are not learning life skills. We need to teach our kids in school that every child is worthy and important because not every child has a safe place to call home. It is evident that these kids who are bullying are not getting the help they need from home or at school. Also, instead of relying on non-profits and the government to teach sensitivity classes, we should have these lessons everyday. Like any skill, we must practice everyday and learn from one another.

Thank you,

Nicole Rivera