I have said on more than one occasion that I love living in the future. From iPhones to 3-D printers, from the Internet to Jurassic Park (which is totally a real place, right?), I am often humbled by the transformative power of human accomplishment. In thinking about how far we've come in the past 30 years, one arena I personally tend to overlook but is nevertheless absolutely mind-blowing is medical science. I was so happy to be reminded of that fact with this amazing photo of an HIV positive man and his HIV negative family.
Andrew Pulsipher contracted HIV from his parents, who died of AIDS complications when he was still a child. Raised by an aunt and uncle, Pulsipher kept his diagnosis mostly under wraps until he began dating his now-wife, Victoria. I can only imagine that it must have been tough to keep something like that to yourself for so many years, but I understand it. Pulsipher and I are just about the same age, and while we grew up post- The Ryan White Story , when HIV and AIDS were gaining more understanding and acceptance, it was (and to a lesser extent, still is) a taboo diagnosis mired in misunderstanding and discrimination.
But thanks to advancements in HIV treatment (including the efforts of activists like Elizabeth Glaser and the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, who revolutionized care for babies and children with the virus), people like Pulsipher are living lives we could only dream about for them back in the 80s and 90s. Pulsipher reports his viral load (the amount of HIV apparently present in his blood) as undetectable. He is married, and through fertility treatments has three beautiful, healthy children. While there is still very much a stigma and misunderstanding related to HIV, decades of awareness-building and education has paved the way for Pulsipher to make a statement of his own.
I am sharing this with you because for the first time I can be completely honest with myself and others. This has taken me a very long time to be comfortable with (almost 34 years!). I know HIV has a negative stigma, but... it doesn’t have to and I want to help change that. It is a treatable disease and you can live a normal life with it. I am proof of that. I want to educate people so that we can get past the “HOW you got the disease” to “HOW you are living your life with it”? There are many miracles in the world and I believe my life is one of them. I am not the only one and we all have stories to tell. If you feel drawn to share my story, please do. I would love to be part of the change in how we talk about HIV.
We still have a long way to go in conquering HIV; New cases are presenting themselves every year and HIV positive people still face discrimination and fear. But thanks to people like Pulsipher, who remind us how far we have already come, we can face the future with optimism and hope.