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Since then, she has worked as a prevention specialist at legacy AIDS Rochester, and she currently works as a manager in Community Health Initiatives at Trillium Health, an organization that specializes in providing comprehensive care to those living with HIV or AIDS.The importance of Kristen’s work cannot be overstated, as HIV is an epidemic that has been plaguing humanity for over three decades, and to date, it has claimed an estimated 39 million lives.In addition to the standard side effects that come with most medications, such as headaches, nausea, and vomiting, AZT is also known to cause severe blood problems (including a decrease in red blood cells and white blood cells), muscle wasting, and severe (sometimes fatal) liver problems. Prior to this, we used monotherapy (a reliance on exclusively one drug for treatment).
Indeed, things were so bad that, initially, many thought that the virus only attacked homosexuals—that there was something fundamentally different about homosexual biology that made them susceptible to this disease: “It was actually first informally referred to as ‘Gay Cancer,’” Kristen explains, “and when they finally realized what it was, once they realized that people were getting this cancer of the immune deficiency, the first official name was GRID, Gay Related Immune Deficiency.” And because we knew so little about the virus and how it operates, treatment options were virtually nonexistent.Currently, there is no cure for HIV, and there is no vaccine.But fortunately, it is possible to protect yourself against HIV and AIDS, as we know exactly how it spreads—bodily fluids. It’s not something that you are accidentally going to pick up on the street.” Indeed, although HIV cells live in nearly all parts of the human body, it is only spread if you come in direct contact with blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or breast milk.Finally, researchers had found the virus responsible for all this illness.Kristen states that, once we realized what HIV actually was, we were able to develop the first antibody test to definitively tell when someone had HIV.