June 2nd - June 8th I will ride my bike 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles to support the life-saving services offered by San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, in the fight to end HIV/AIDS.
This is my 10th ALC and this year I will ride AGAIN A SINGLE GEAR FIXED BIKE.
Last year these words were not easy to say but it is still relevant to say that 2018 was a big milestone in my life and that it was time to lay down on the paper what has changed the course of my life in the past 2 decades. 21 years ago, exactly in May-June 1998 I seroconverted and became HIV positive.
I was in a serious and happy relationship and my boyfriend was undetectable. Back in the days, undetectable was determined with a viral load inferior to 75 copies. I thought I was safe and didn't make any research about it, too much preoccupied by my insertion, as a french nurse specialized in cardiac surgery, in a new sharp professional environment and a quite different culture with the barrier of the language.
I knew what was happening in my body, waking up every morning for work and holding myself against the walls, due to a weakness I couldn't describe, and hoping it was yet bed time; although I had to assume a long workday often extended with overtime. In August, I went to a city clinic in San Francisco to be tested but picked up the results only in October, afraid to face the reality. The staff of the city clinic, overwhelmed with the number of new infections, didn't show much empathy. The lady gave me the results and a phone number if I needed any help. I was then 37 and I couldn't express my fears, my distress, my disappointment and mostly my shame. Afraid as well of unveiling my condition at work, on my boyfriend advices, I attended a study for newly infected patients at the San Francisco's General Hospital: Option Projects, where I started a tri-therapy with all the medical tests imaginable. Even though I never stopped working out at the gym, the weakness due to the massive infection and the side effects of the drugs exacerbated the difficult professional and cultural adaptation in my everyday life.
A few years later I went on " drug vacation" as a result of resistance to the medications I was on. After my mother passed away in 2005, due to the stress, my viral load went very high and the CD4's down: lower than 150. Over the next year I developed more than 11 staphylococcus infections and my health was seriously compromised. I ended up three times in surgery and I spent more time on disability than at work. I discovered inadvertently that in my medical records I was declared having AIDS. I was then 43 year old and, although I never lost hope, I hardly could envision myself reach age 55, healthy and professionally active.
The arrival of new drugs drastically improved my health and I finally regained much greater energy. As I was getting back a decent physical and psychological condition, I realized that over the past 8 years I had been living in the sadness, guilt and bitterness of the loss of my HIV negative status.
It was time to move on.
In 2007 I registered for the first time for the AIDSLIFECYCLE and have not stopped riding ever since. Cycling has literally changed and enriched my life with happiness and strength what I believe everyone deserves. It has strengthened my health and enabled me to focus on my career.
Nevertheless, in 2014 I became unemployed and lost my health coverage. I never thought it would happen but I became the one who needed help.
At the Los Angeles LGBT Center every single person who took care of me treated me with respect, warmth and encouragements. It took only a few days for the doctor and the social workers to have me covered with MediCal and keep me on track with my treatment without interruption until I found a new position as a nurse. It was a very humbling experience which reinforced my trust in the 2 organizations I've been trying to help for the past 10 years.
3 years ago my doctor, Dr. M. Ghotlieb, one of the most amazing, humble and eminent physician that I know, who discovered the HIV in the 80's, told me I was eligible for a study on a new medication that I'm currently taking. One pill a day, compared to the 9 pills I used to take made a huge difference, and with very minimal side effects. It was time for me to give back what I've been benefiting for so long with the several treatments I had, improved little by little , due to the diligence of the people who participated in these studies. With this drug I am totally undetectable: less than 10 copies, and cannot transmit the virus. That fear has affected my private life for so long.
It took 21 years to get to were I am today. And it took more than 30 years to get to where we are: Reducing tremendously the number of new infectons a year with new effective treatments that give people the confidence to be safe, such as the PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) and the PrEP ( Pre Exposure Prophylaxis ) and mostly NOT loosing anymore the people we love.
With your consistent generosity and by being a part of AIDS/LifeCycle, you will help us work towards the following:
1 Fund the work of San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center to provide free HIV/AIDS medical care, testing, and prevention services.
2 Raise awareness to end the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.
3 Provide a positive, life affirming experience for people affected by HIV/AIDS.
4 Grow our community of activists, volunteers, and ambassadors fighting to end AIDS.
5 Honor those who have passed from AIDS-related causes.
This is why this year, again, I am challenging myself by riding a single geared fixed bike. Life is challenging, isn't it? But challenging ourself on something we do with passion, love and to help the others is a chance that millions of people who died of AIDS or related causes never had.
I am a 21 year HIV/AIDS survivor, this cause is deeply imprinted in my heart and I will ride until HIV/AIDS is a thing of the past.
Please help me support AIDS/LIFECYCLE by giving what you can. You can make donations by check or with a credit card via the website with a one time donation or a monthly payment plan.
Your donation is 100% tax-deductible.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH INDEED FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND YOUR GENEROSITY.