Here's a video from a previous ALC Ride with the Gilead team. (I first talk at 30 seconds into the video).
2020 would have been my 7th ALC ride. COVID-19 changed that, and is changing it again for 2021, with the ALC ride cancelled. Instead we will be riding 1.2 million total miles, all over the country, and all over the globe. The 1.2 million miles represents the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States.
I have been involved in HIV work for the past 27 years. First, as a lawyer in Detroit fighting for people with HIV, then teaching a course on HIV law at University of Michigan Law School, then as a physician in training as a Resident and Infectious Disease Fellow at Wayne State University in Detroit. I then moved to Pittsburgh, PA where I was the medical director of the Positive Health Clinic, a Ryan White HIV Clinic. Over 12 years ago I joined Gilead Sciences and am currently the Vice President and Global Lead of HIV Medical Affairs.
I recall when friends were dying from HIV, when the diagnosis was a death sentence and recall when antiretroviral therapy first gave people with HIV hope. In 1996 when HAART was first utilized we all witnessed a change in HIV and AIDS. Today, HIV can be a chronic condition treated with better and better antiretroviral therapies. And new HIV infections can be prevented with PrEP.
But the epidemic has not ended. In the US today over 1.2 million people are infected with up to 35,000 new infections each year. And each year in the US, 10,000 to 15,000 people with HIV continue to die. Still 11% of people with HIV in the US are unaware of their diagnosis, many more people who are diagnosed are not in care or unable to stay in care and too many people are unable to reach full suppression of their virus. I recall clients from my days in law, patients from my days in medical practice, and friends throughout the past 27 years, who are not with us today. We all owe it to them to continue to find ways to better reach all people with HIV and offer treatments available today, but also to continue to find better medications and, eventually, the cure to HIV. I also know and celebrate friends and family who are living with HIV today and others who are using Truvada or Descovy for PrEP to prevent becoming infected with HIV.
For these reasons, I'm joining with the expected thousands of other former ALC riders in live spontaneous rides to add up our miles from now until June 1 to represent full inclusion of all 1.2 million people living with HIV in the US. My goal is 545 miles, the same number we would normally do on the ride.
Help me support AIDS LifeCycle by giving what you can. A dollar a mile ($545.00) is a generous donation that can make a difference, but any donation, whether a penny a mile ($5.45), a dime a mile ($54.50) a quarter a mile ($136.25) or any other amount that works for you, will keep me pedaling for all of our family members and friends to continue the fight against HIV.
This year I also have the honor of serving as co-captain for Team Gilead. Over the past 7 years Team Gilead members have raised over $1,000,000 for AIDS LifeCycle. Feel free to join us as we do the ToGetTherRide alone but together one more time!
Thank you for your support!
David Piontkowsky, JD, MD