Monday, June 29, 2009

Ground Zero

Arrive at the clinic
walk through the front door
take a nervous number
then I think about it more
about all the time
that I neglected
makin sure that
I was protected

But how'm I gonna live my life
if I'm positive?
Is it gonna be a negative?

Michael Franti & Spearhead -- Positive

These are lyrics are from a song where the narrator laments hearing the results of his AIDS test. He wants to be a responsible mate, but hasn't always been responsible in the past. Ultimately he fears he may be infected with a horrible disease.

The number of new AIDS cases in the United States been slowly dropping this decade as you can see in the table above. For the last year referenced in the table, there were just under 37,000 new cases. 25 years ago an HIV/AIDS diagnosis was a certain death sentence. At first the disease was dismissed as a gay man's disease and the stigma connected to AIDS resulted in a reluctance of doctors and researchers to give it the attention it needed. Once there was more awareness about AIDS, people started advocating for research about how the disease behaves and the best way to treat it. Great strides were made in treatments and today those infected with HIV/AIDS can lead a fairly normal and long life.

In early 1983 Dr. Joseph Jemsek quite likely diagnosed the first case of HIV/AIDS in the Carolinas when he was requested to provide an infectious disease consultation on a young male dying with atypical pneumonia at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte. Subsequently he personally provided care for over 2000 individuals with HIV/AIDS through early 2006 ... naturally almost all individuals with this disease passed away until life prolonging changes in therapy became available in 1996. This experience with the medical and social aspects of this epidemic have profoundly impacted his view of medicine in current times. *

In over 20 years of work in the field of HIV/AIDS, Dr. Jemsek participated in many pharmaceutical-sponsored trials for HIV medications, including some of the earliest clinical trials on record. In his career, he and his staff have participated in over 100 clinical research studies for HIV/AIDS treatment, of which 22 became established protocols, In these and other academic pursuits in the area of Infectious Diseases, he has generated over 40 peer reviewed publications. *

It was the compassion that Dr. Jemsek showed towards his AIDS patients that resulted in an influx of patients suffering from a new disease. Lyme patients had heard of this doctor's willingness to listen to his patients. And so Doctor Jemsek started treating these patients for this increasingly common disease. Dr. Jemsek's research and practice in the area of Lyme disease has resulted in him being one of the world's foremost experts in the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and associated infections.

The CDC reported over 27,000 new cases of Lyme disease in 2007. They admit that the disease is likely underreported by a factor of 10. This means that there are nearly 90% more new cases of Lyme disease per year than AIDS. Where are the studies and research that this disease deserves?

Some of the symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, insomnia, headache, depression, numbness in tingling in the limbs, ADHD, cardiac irregularities, hearing loss, unexplained fever or low body temperature, loss of appetite, rashes and joint pain.

I have visited or lived in every Lyme disease endemic region in this country. I visited the north coast of California as a child. I lived in west central Wisconsin for 4 years where I had a tick attachment. I visited the New England area several times as an adult.

At least one of the symptoms that I have listed above has been experienced by myself, my former and current wives, as well as the two children that I have fathered. Could it be that I have harbored this disease for a large part of my life and passed it on to my wives, who then passed it on to our children? Could I be ground zero for this introducing this infection to my family?

* Disclosure: the first two paragraphs about Dr. Jemsek's history and practice are taken from the Jemsek Specialty Clinic website.

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