Personal Reflections from the 2015 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections

March 3, 2015

John Curry is a peer educator working on HIV outreach services for Unconditional Love, Inc. in Brevard County, Florida and is a graduate of the Black AIDS Institute’s African American HIV University (AAHU): Community Mobilization College (CMC). He is also a member of the Melbourne, FL Chapter of the Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN).

Having a trip to Seattle Washington is a treat within itself. But to be a delegate to attend the premier scientific conference on HIV and other viruses and opportunistic infections, is way above the expectations of any individual working in the HIV arena, or personally impacted by the disease. All I can say is “Wow!” This could be a mind-blowing experience with just the two mention reasons above. If you add that first-hand knowledge on hepatitis C will be disseminated; those individuals dually diagnosed, will have the opportunity to gain real time life changing information that directly impact their life.

I fit the profile of the individual mentioned above. My physician just added ledipasvir and sofosbuvir, or Harvoni, to my medication regime, for the CURE of the hepatitis C virus, that’s been flowing in my bloodstream for 15 plus years; this brought tears to my eyes. It has been a privilege having the opportunity to hear from world-renowned researchers, doctors and scientists who worked toward the development and implementation of this medication for the world. I wanted to wait to start my HCV medication until after I return from Seattle, for two reasons: first, I did not want to experience side-effects if any, while attending this premier conference. Second, I’ll have all information I need regarding the medication from the world’s top researchers.

My HIV infectious disease specialist informed me of all information I needed to know but it was helpful to hear it again in a session on drug-drug interactions between anti-HCV regimen ledipasvir/sofosbuvir and ART. This session, by Dr. Polina German and associates, re-enforced the information installed in me at the onset of receiving a prescription for this life changing medication. I’m truly blessed!

My highlights from CROI 2015 have been: 1). Ebola update, 2). PrEP the PROUD study results, 3). on-demand PrEP, results of the IPERGAY trial, 4). FACTS 001 Phase III Trial of pericotal tenofivir 1% gel for HIV prevention in women, and 5). the drug-drug interaction between the hepatitis C drug, Harvoni, and antiretroviral medications. My plan is to present the findings with the engaged Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN) Chapter in Melbourne, Florida.

In addition to having my own personal experience with HIV and hepatitis C, I feel qualified to bring the information that I learned at CROI to my community as a peer educator working HIV outreach services for Unconditional Love, Inc. I’m also a double graduate of the Black AIDS Institute’s African American HIV University (AAHU): Community Mobilization College (CMC) and Science & Treatment College (STC), which is in collaboration with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). With these qualifications I believe I can reach the community I’ve been serving for the past seven years. I feel like I’ve been charged to implement change, to the people residing in the most HIV prevalent area in Brevard County, Florida. This alone gives me purpose and perseverance for the calling, God has set before me.

The preparation webinars hosted by the Black AIDS Institute & AVAC helped to prepare us with the information being presented during the conference. The mentorship program has valuable qualities, but I wish we had more time to connect to one another during these meetings. I will add that God had his hands on me, by connecting me with an AAHU graduate, whom is a Licensed Registered Pharmacist for my mentorship during this conference. It was a win-win situation. As we sat through sessions together he was able to help me understand all concepts I didn’t fully grasp.

I must give thanks to the Black AIDS Institute, AVAC and God for giving me the opportunity to experience the life changing sessions during CROI. The residents of Brevard County, Florida will have first-hand knowledge of the new developments in HIV and other opportunistic infections. I’ll close by saying: I hope to see you next year CROI 2016, and remain blessed.