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Thursday, December 1, 2016

World AIDS Day 2016


On the eve of World AIDS Day 2016 a historic vaccine trial has launched in South Africa that could very well change the tide of AIDS.

Today it's extremely rare for a child in the United States to be born with HIV. Sadly, we can't say the same for other parts of the world, like Africa, where my youngest son was born, and subsequently orphaned by AIDS. It's hard to fathom, that here we are in 2016, with medicines that can totally prevent a mother from transmitting the virus to her child, and yet children, moms, entire families are still dying of AIDS in other parts of the world. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Foundation is trying to change that.

Diagnosed in 1996, after the birth of my second child, I carried the HIV virus for more than ten years without ever knowing it. I had no symptoms. Our diagnosis came as a total shock.

I get pretty emotional when I think about those early days. They were difficult. The medicines were many and they came with side-effects. Once upon a time my children had to take eleven to thirteen pills a day to keep the virus undetectable. Today, they take one pill a day. They are all "undetectable" and their immune systems are healthier than the average child. We are living in remarkable times, for sure, and not a day goes by that I don't thank God for the advances that have allowed my children to thrive. Back when my husband and I were starting a family, it was unheard of for a woman to get an HIV test. Things are different today. Just the other day I saw an HIV test on the Walgreen shelf. That one test could save someone a lifetime of grief.

This World AIDS Day I am thankful for so many things, but I am especially thankful for the many doctors and researchers out there who are working to end HIV/AIDS. They are true rock stars in my eyes.

Hold on to hope. Educate yourself. Get tested. Get involved. We will see the end of AIDS.

To learn more, tune to WNYC The Takeaway (9:30am today) to listen to myself and leading pediatric expert Dr. Donna Futterman talk about recent advances made in the treatment and prevention of pediatric AIDS.