Tag Archives: HIV/AIDS

Yes, they should ‘fear’ CTE

Terrell Davis used to be a great football player.

The newly inducted Hall of Fame running back for the Denver Broncos now says he lives in fear — along with other former football players — of a disease he might get later on in life. It’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Davis has reason to be very afraid.

The young man took a battering while carrying a football for the Broncos. He took many hits to the head, as did so many other professional football players. Indeed, studies have revealed recently that more than 80 percent of former NFL players are — or will be — afflicted by CTE, which ultimately diminishes cognitive ability.

“We’re concerned because we don’t know what the future holds. When I’m at home and I do something, if I forget something I have to stop to think, ‘Is this because I’m getting older or I’m just not using my brain, or is this an effect of playing football? I don’t know that.”

Read more about Davis’s comments here.

What does the NFL do about this? It already has taken steps to penalize players who hit other athletes on what they call “helmet-to-helmet contact.” The league has been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to players afflicted by CTE.

The NFL is now dealing almost daily with reports of athletes becoming afflicted with CTE at various stages of its progression.

The term CTE only recently has become part of every-day language, sort of like HIV/AIDS and ALS have become over the years.

Do these grown men stop doing what they do? Do we make football an illegal activity? Must the NFL resort to retooling the game into a two-hand touch football game? No, no and no.

But I surely can understand the fear that Terrell Davis and other former football players are expressing as they advance in years toward elderly status.

I suppose it would be imperative that the NFL do all it can to (a) protect the players on the field with improvements in the equipment they wear and (b) spend whatever it takes to care for those who are permanently damaged by the sport they choose to play.

HIV/AIDS gets short shrift from Trump administration

Here’s a quick story about the respective value two Republican presidents have placed on researching a cure for HIV/AIDS.

One of them is George W. Bush, who in 2002 managed to create an agency called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. It has delivered an enormous contribution to the worldwide fight against the dreaded disease.

In 2004, I was fortunate enough to attend the International Conference on AIDS in Bangkok, Thailand, where I learned that because of PEPFAR, the United States has given more money to AIDS research than every other nation in the world combined.

President Bush began pondering such an initiative in 1998 when he was still governor of Texas but considering a run for the presidency in 2000.

Now, let’s fast-forward to 2017. President Barack Obama has departed the White House after two terms and Donald J. Trump has settled into his new gig. What’s happened to the national effort on HIV/AIDS research? Six members of the president’s HIV/AIDS council have quit in anger. They say Trump doesn’t care about HIV/AIDS.

According to The Hill newspaper: “The group said that the administration ‘has no strategy’ to address HIV/AIDS, doesn’t consult experts when working on policy and ‘pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.'”

They wrote in their letter of resignation: “As advocates for people living with HIV, we have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care.”

This, dear reader, looks to be yet another travesty of the Donald J. Trump administration.

Clinton takes back … a compliment

HIV-AIDS

Here’s how it usually goes when a politician retracts a statement.

The pol usually says something negative about someone else, only to be shown that the comment was unfounded. The politician then might take at least some of it back, declaring a lack of complete understanding.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, though, did something quite different this week.

She attended the funeral of former first lady Nancy Reagan and then offered high praise for the work Mrs. Reagan and her husband, President Ronald Reagan, did to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS.

Well, to borrow an exclamation: Oops!

Turns out the Reagans didn’t do what Clinton said they did. They were not champions for HIV/AIDS research.

AIDS activists and leaders of the LGBT community were quick to call Clinton out on her misstatement.

President Reagan didn’t even mention AIDS — which was initially diagnosed in 1981, the first year of his presidency — until 1987. As for Mrs. Reagan, she was silent on the issue as well.

Yes, the backlash was intense in the wake of Clinton’s comments.

As the New York Times reported: “While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, I misspoke about their record on HIV and AIDS,” she said in a statement about two hours after her interview had been shown on MSNBC. “For that, I’m sorry.”

I am pretty sure that Clinton’s staff did not serve her well in prepping her for the TV interview in which she “misspoke.”

Indeed, if the leading Democratic presidential candidate would be of a mind to praise any Republican for their work on HIV/AIDS research, it ought to go President George W. Bush, on whose watch the PEPFAR program was initiated.

While touring Southeast Asia with other journalists in 2004 on a mission to learn about the impact of AIDS in that part of the world, we were told that because of PEPFAR — the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — the United States was spending more on AIDS research than the rest of the world combined.

The Reagans weren’t in the game. Yes, the late former first lady has earned high praise for her Alzheimer’s awareness efforts. Not so with HIV/AIDS.

Now we’ll get to see how nimble Hillary Clinton can be in the face of some stinging rebukes over what one leading gay activist called her “idiotic, false – and heartbreaking” tribute.

Does one ‘choose’ to be gay?

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has entered the Republican presidential field.

He’s also said he doesn’t know if people choose to be gay.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-i-dont-know-presidential-candidate/2015/07/20/12fd3aba-2f08-11e5-8f36-18d1d501920d_story.html?hpid=z2

The columnist Richard Cohen posed what I presume to be a rhetorical question: “At what point did he (Walker) decide to be heterosexual? At what age did he decide that he would not be homosexual or, if he had the energy, bisexual? I know for myself that I am unaware of making such a decision and did not mark it down — as I now would — in my Google Calendar or tweet it to much of America and the ships at sea.”

It’s a question that’s likely to dog the governor as he campaigns for the GOP presidential nomination.

I keep falling back to another question posed by a gay friend of mine. His name was Tim. He died of AIDS-related complications in 1994. After he revealed to his friends and colleagues that he had contracted HIV, he and I discussed his sexual orientation. “Why would I choose to be vilified and condemned?” Tim asked.

Why, indeed?

Tim said he didn’t choose his sexual orientation. He considered it to be part of his DNA, of his character, of his very being

I don’t know when, or if, Gov. Walker will ever reach a conclusion on people’s sexual orientation. He’ll likely have to decide before his presidential campaign gets too far down the road.

ESPN to honor Caitlyn Jenner … for what?

Bob Costas is a smart sports journalist who goes far beyond who gets the most hits, scores the most touchdowns or sinks the most three-point field goals.

He’s been known to offer opinions on a wide range of issues beyond the field of competition.

He often is spot on.

I think he’s on target with his assertion that ESPN’s plan to honor Caitlyn Jenner with a special courage award, named after the late tennis great Arthur Ashe, is an attempt to exploit Jenner and boost the network’s ratings.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/10/bob-costas-caitlyn-jenner-arthur-ashe_n_7555508.html

This likely will be the final thing I’ll say about Jenner, whose sex changed from man to woman. Jenner once was Bruce Jenner, Olympic decathlon champion who turned into a reality TV personality; he married Kris Kardashian and became the foil for his former wife and her daughters.

Then Bruce became Caitlyn.

I’m not sure about the “courage” it took to do such a thing. Jenner always has struck me as someone who craves publicity. She’s getting a ton of it now.

The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is named after the tennis great who died of AIDS complications in 1993. He announced to the world that had contracted HIV through a tainted blood transfusion. It broke the hearts of a sports nation that had admired him for his talent on the tennis court and his courtly, gentlemanly demeanor.

Caitlyn Jenner earning an award in memory of Arthur Ashe? It just doesn’t feel right.

There. I’m out.

 

Shriver steps into Alzheimer’s battle

It’s presumptuous, I know, to refer to yourself and a famous person in the same sentence.

But I’ll do so anyway.

I feel Maria Shriver’s pain as she engages in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/13/opinions/shriver-wipe-out-alzheimers/index.html

This merciless killer claimed her father, the great Sargent Shriver, the way it took my own mother. It did so brutally and with extreme malice. It robbed Maria’s father of his towering intellect, just as it stole my own mother’s quick wit and intelligence.

I’m with Maria Shriver as she wages war on Alzheimer’s disease.

She notes in a CNN essay that the disease remains an unknown, despite the fact that it has claimed 5 million victims already — in the United States alone!

Her essay references a group called Wipe Out Alzheimer’s. Shriver writes: “We’re asking women to put together their own “brain trusts” in their communities — groups that will go out and do some muscular fund-raising. But equally important, these brain trusts will gather to discuss and disseminate information about what the disease is and isn’t. What are the warning signs we should look for in ourselves and our parents? What’s the difference between normal forgetfulness, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Can brain games or meditation slow cognitive decline? Do dietary supplements help?”

Shriver notes that women seem more inclined to get the disease than men. She also believes women hold the key to rounding up more money to pay for the research that is needed to fight this killer disease.

Shriver said: “It’s time for the narrative around Alzheimer’s to change. I remember when an HIV/AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence. I remember when cancer was a dirty word, and the prognosis was always grim. But AIDS and cancer activists are helping to take these diseases from terrifying to treatable, from hopeless to hopeful. We want to do the same with Alzheimer’s. We want to understand it, prevent it, treat it and beat it. Wipe Out Alzheimer’s is creating a global community of women activists, agitators and agents of change to do just that.”

You go, Maria Shriver. I’m betting you’ll find a lot of men ready and able to join the fight, too.

Start shouting for Alzheimer's research

T.R. Reid, writing in the January-February AARP Bulletin, puts it succinctly and powerfully.

Alzheimer’s disease is “the most expensive disease in America” and it is “devouring federal and state health care budgets, and depleting the life savings of million of victims and their families.”

So, what are the federal and state governments doing about it? What kind of public resources are they committing to fighting this dangerous killer?

Too damn little, according to Reid.

He’s correct. That must change.

http://www.aarp.org/bulletin/

Reid, a former reporter for the Washington Post, notes that the “cost of caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias has surpassed the cost of treatment for cancer patients or victims of heart disease.” Alzhiemer’s disease, says Huntington Potter, a University of Colorado neurobiologist, is “going to bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid.”

Let’s get busy, folks.

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts 5.2 million Americans — at the moment. The number is going to increase as the nation’s population continues to age. One projection puts the number of Americans suffering from the disease by 2050 at 13.8 million.

How has Alzheimer’s research funding stacked up to other deadly diseases? Reid writes the federal government has committed $5.4 billion on cancer research, $1.2 billion on heart disease and $3 billion on HIV/AIDS research. Alzheimer’s disease research will get $566 million.

My own interest in this disease is intensely personal. My mother died of complications of Alzheimer’s in 1984. She was 61 years of age when she died. Sixty-one! She’d exhibited symptoms for perhaps a decade.

The pain of watching a loved one lose their memory, their cognitive skill, their ability to take care of basic needs is beyond description. Take my word for it.

And that pain is going to spread as more Americans fall victim to this merciless killer.

Federal government estimates put the cost of Alzheimer’s care at about $214 billion annually. Medicare and Medicaid pay about $150 billion per year; the rest of the cost falls on patients and their families, according to Reid.

Why hasn’t there been an outcry for federal funding of this disease as there have been for cancer or HIV/AIDS? Part of it is stigma, Reid reports. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, “I think the problem is that there’s still a stigma attached to Alzheimer’s and other dementias. People don’t want to talk about it. By contrast, LGBT groups have no qualms about campaigning for HIV/AIDS research. The cancer advocacy groups are extremely well-organized, vocal and politically skillful, with their Race for the Cure and everyone wearing pink for a month.”

I’ve made it my mission with this blog to call attention whenever possible to the need to boost attention to this disease. Its impact doesn’t just affect those who afflicted with it. It causes severe pain and anguish on care-givers and other loved ones.

The good news — if you want to call it such — is that some notable celebrities are beginning to put the word out there. One of them is Seth Rogen, the comic actor known most recently for his role in the controversial film “The Interview.”

“Americans whisper the word ‘Alzheimer’s’ because their government whispers the word ‘Alzheimers,'” Rogen told a Senate committee hearing in 2014. Rogen’s own interest has been fueled by his mother-in-law’s struggle with the disease. “It needs to be yelled and screamed to the point that it finally gets the attending and the funding it deserves.”

Well, young man, I’m with you. I’ll yell and scream for as long as it takes.

 

Sexual orientation or preference?

Apple boss Tim Cook has just burst out of the closet by declaring he is homosexual.

OK. That’s a big deal? I think not. He is who he is and that’s all fine and dandy.

Then comes U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Loony Bin, to suggest something else is at work here.

“Those are his personal choices,” Cruz said of Cook’s sexual orientation, meaning, I reckon, that Cook chose to be gay.

Cruz then added, “I love my iPhone.”

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/222300-cruz-on-apple-ceo-being-gay-personal-decision

Is there any doubt now as to why Cruz and other outspoken Republicans are having trouble connecting with gay Americans?

I keep coming back to this notion a person’s sexuality is pre-determined. One doesn’t come into this world, in my view, grow toward adolescence, and then, when puberty kicks in, decide to become attracted to individuals of the same sex.

One’s sexuality is part of who they are. It’s in their genetic code, in their DNA.

For the freshman senator from Texas to ridicule someone’s sexual orientation by comparing it to his “love” for his iPhone cheapens the discussion.

As a friend once said to after me he revealed to the world many years ago that he had become infected with HIV/AIDS while also disclosing his own homosexuality, “Why would I ever choose to become the object of scorn and revulsion?”

He answered his own question. He didn’t choose it at all.

 

 

Alzheimer's marches on and on and on

Readers of this blog know that I’ve commented several times over the years about the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.

It struck down my mother at an early age. She was 61 when she died 30 years ago. She never got the chance to grow old, to watch her grandchildren grow up and to enjoy those so-called “golden years.”

I’ve noted with dismay that research for Alzheimer’s disease — a degenerative condition that eats away at a person’s brain — has been given the short shrift. Public attention has turned to HIV/AIDS, various forms of cancer and even chronic depression.

Why, I learned this week that Congress is planning a hearing to discuss the dangers of drowsy driving.

Drowsy driving is dangerous? Who knew?

Meanwhile, 5 million Americans are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Their loved ones will suffer the most. Eventually, Alzheimer’s patients lose all cognitive ability. They won’t know their names, or the names of those who love them. They tend to become incontinent. The effects of this disease are ghastly in the extreme.

The numbers are going to grow as the nation continues to age.

Well, another member of my family has announced that he has been diagnosed with early onset of this disease. I won’t reveal who it is because he doesn’t yet know that I am disclosing this news.

He said in an email that he has “a long way to go prior to ‘losing it.’ and now I’m on medication to slow the progression even further.”

This family member is very dear to my wife, our sons and to me.

My intention is to use this forum as a bully pulpit to keep calling attention to the need to step up Alzheimer’s disease research, to find a cure, perhaps a vaccine and to improve therapies that can arrest the inevitable deterioration that this disease brings upon those who suffer it.

While the media keep hyping an Ebola “crisis” that doesn’t exist in this country, they are giving scant attention to an actual crisis that is claiming the lives of Americans every day.

Listen carefully to Dr. Frist

It’s always heartening to read about politicians who are actual experts on critical issues of the day speak those issues with calm, with reason and with intelligence.

Bill Frist once served as a U.S. senator from Tennessee. The Republican also served as Senate majority leader for a time before he decided he’d had enough of politics. He then went back to his first calling, as a cardiovascular surgeon who’s also treated patients with infectious diseases.

Indeed, while he served in the Senate, Dr. Frist usually spent part of his time on “recess” going to remote locations in Africa and Asia to treat patients infected with HIV/AIDS.

He is an honorable man.

So we ought to heed this fellow’s assessment of the Ebola situation that’s killed thousands of people in West Africa and precisely one person in the United States of America.

http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2014/10/former-sen-william-frist-ebola-crisis-in-west-africa-could-last-into-next-spring.html/

Ebola is going to be a “crisis” in West Africa at least until next spring, Frist says.

Frist was in Dallas, site of the lone Ebola-related death, to take part in a family-planning conference. As Dallas Morning News blogger Jim Mitchell reported, he put the Ebola “scare” into its proper perspective: “Frist estimates that 23,000 people will die of the flu this year, and in America less than ’10 will die of Ebola, hopefully just one.’ And while every death is tragic, the reality is that protocols have to be strictly established and followed. ‘This is not contagious virus like flu,’ he said.”

Frist is one more reasonable voice that needs to be heard as the world searches for a way to stop this virus from spreading beyond its source in West Africa.

According to Mitchell: “While the Ebola crisis in West Africa has lasted longer than he anticipated, (Frist) wants people to know that he is confident it will not spin out of control in the United States even though it might seem that public uncertainty is trumping established science.”

I should add that media hysteria isn’t helping, either.

Pay attention to this man. He knows of what he speaks.