Magazine article Medical Economics

"They're All Dead"

Magazine article Medical Economics

"They're All Dead"

Article excerpt

You've most likely heard the question: "Why should so much money be spent on AIDS research? After all, it's no different from any other terminal illness." But it is different, and that difference stared me in the face one recent afternoon in my examining room.

John is tall and athletic, with rugged good looks. He is a successful attorney, active in community and professional affairs. But the purple lesions on his palate, his medication list, and his CD4 count all reveal his battle with AIDS.

Kaposi's sarcoma aside, he has done fairly well so far, despite T-cell counts that frighten us both. When the development of rising liver enzymes and fatty liver forced us to abandon antiviral treatment, John took it in stride.

We have a close, friendly relationship, and we'd often discussed how his attitude, his activism, his continued involvement in life, helped to keep him healthy. But today's conversation was different.

John seemed unusually quiet. When 1 asked what was on his mind, he simply said, "It's happening at least once a week, sometimes more." He meant the rate at which his friends were dying, and of the same disease that he, himself, was fighting. "Eric," he told me, "they're all dead.... I mean, they're all dead."

I searched for words to console him, but found none. "Can you imagine?" he asked. "I'm 41 years old, and I've outlived almost everyone I know." I could not imagine, I responded, such devastation, such loneliness.

I asked whether he talked with anyone about his situation. …

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