David Ross Patientauthor and long term survivor of HIV
On March the 13th 1983, while living in Las Vegas in the USA, I was diagnosed with GRIDS, later to be more commonly and universally know as AIDS. Yes, I have lived with an HIV diagnosis for the past 31 years, of which 22 years were without antiretroviral therapy. Back in 1983 there was no test for HIV; however, based on an immune system assay, it was determined by the doctors that my immune system was crashing and based on the symptoms I presented with, I had GRIDS. Blood samples were taken in March 1983 (LAMS Study-UCLA) and when the first antibody test for HIV came out in 1985-86, my samples were tested and I was found to be 'highly reactive' to both the Elisa and Western Blot methods of testing. Later rapid testing and PCR testing confirmed the results I already knew. Based on where my immune system was back in 1983, the doctors who have studied me believe I was infected back in the late 1970's. Be that as it may, I see my infection date as the date I was told I had GRIDS, back on my 22nd birthday in 1983.
I have subsequently been studied by the who's who of HIV research, including all the top AIDS research institutions in the USA, Centres for Disease Control, the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Centre, and the National Institute of Health, as well as being studied by the Co-discoverers of HIV, Robert Gallo, Luc Montagnier, and Jay Levy. I participated for nine months in 1986 in the first human trials for AZT. I stopped taking the medication due to severe side effects due to the high dosage ( two pills every four hours, 24/7), and did not require antiretrovirals until December 2004, when my CD4 count dropped to 350. Currently (Jan 2014) my CD4 count is 260, and I have an undetectable viral load.
I have been part of several studies of so-called 'long-term non-progressor' that were trying to find the common factors in a group of people who have managed to maintain immune function despite 20 years or more of being infected with HIV.
For the past 31 years, I have been an AIDS activist and advocate for the rights of those living with HIV/AIDS, both in the USA and in Africa, where I now live. If you would like to know more about me, feel free to drop me a note (go to my contact page).
I was born on the 13th March 1961, in a small mining town in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. I was adopted at the age of 10 weeks old as my birth mother was unable to raise me. At the age of 6 my family moved to South Africa when Zambia finally gained it's independence and I live in SA until I was forced to seek exile in the USA in 1979.
At school I was anything but a model student and was expelled from all but one school I ever attended, including kindergarden. I had numerous learning obstacles, namely I was severely dyslexic, hyperactive and had what is now called ADHD or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
From age 8 onwards I was in and out of psychiatric care as my behaviour was fairly anti-social and I was constantly in trouble with school authorities, who eventually washed their hands of me and gave me a general certificate of education, which is 2 years shy of a full graduation from high school. However truth be known, the last year of school I passed on my own ability was my 7th years of school [Standard five or grade 7], so I do not have a formal high school education.
By age 15 I was already experimenting with recreational drugs and my addiction plagued me until I finally sobered up at the age of 25, at which point I had all but destroyed my life due to my severe cocaine addiction. In February 1986 I went cold turkey and have never touched cocaine since. Personally I think this is my greatest personal achievement, however many others would say that my survival with AIDS supercedes this.
In 1979 I left Apartheid South Africa due to a warrant for my arrest having been issued by the SA Bureau of State of Security (BOSS- the apartheid government's secret police) and I ended up in the USA, where I lived for the next 16 years, before returning to the new democratic South Africa in 1995. I now live in Pretoria, having spend 22 years living in the bush in Mpumulanga, South Africa.
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