Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why I Do It

In honor of World AIDS Day, I wanted to do my part to share education and information about the current HIV Vaccine Trials taking place across the United States.

I first heard about these studies four years ago. At that time I noticed I was no longer seeing HIV presented in the media as a crisis. However, people I knew were still being infected, friends were still getting ill, my clients were still struggling, and families and loved ones were still suffering. I felt frustrated that 25 years into this epidemic we didn't seem any closer to seeing the end of it, and that the younger generation appeared dangerously oblivious to the risks of contracting this disease.

That’s when I learned about the HIV Vaccine Trials taking place in New York and many cities around the United States. It appeared that this was the answer I was waiting for, this was the change I was waiting to see. If one could be vaccinated and protected from ever becoming HIV infected, it would certainly promote physical and emotional wellness in myself and my community.

Sure, I had trepidations about receiving an experimental vaccine. So I took the time to educate myself. I talked to the nurse at Project Achieve,  I did research, and I asked questions. I weighed the possibility of minimal side effects against the potential of global benefits, and concluded that this was the right thing for me to do. I agreed to receive injections of either the vaccine or placebo, and agreed to come in for follow up blood draws for several years after.

The side effects, if any, were anticipated to be mild flu-like symptoms and fatigue for 24 hours after receiving the injection. To be honest, this part did not thrill me. But then I realized that some minor flu-like side effects were minimal compared to the discomfort and illness many of my loved ones with HIV had gone through. And with that, I agreed.

Over the next six months I received the three injections. And yes, I did have minor flu-like symptoms and fever for a short duration after receiving each injection. However, instead of that bothering me, it became something I perceived as positive. I realized that what was happening to my body was going to directly assist the researchers in learning how to eliminate this disease from our world. Generations from now, children would be as familiar with HIV as today’s generation is with polio, in part thanks to my efforts. I was willing to endure any side effects of discomfort with that goal in mind.

I now work for Project Achieve doing outreach and education about the trials around New York City. The current clinical trials are taking place now in several cities in the United States.  You can press here to find out if it is happening in a city near you.

This is an opportunity to actively take part in the solution. This is a chance to honor those that have passed, and their families that miss them. This is a chance for volunteers to take pride in knowing they are doing their part to change the world. Participating in the HIV vaccine trials gave my life a new sense of meaning and purpose. Will you consider giving yours the same?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

beautifully written! thank you for what you do!!