Yes, I'm gay. I probably was since the day I was born. On my 21st birthday, I sort of had my debut. I came out to my parents. A little drama from mom, and some indifference from dad. An above-average coming out. Almost perfect.

Nine years later, two weeks before my 30th birthday, I found out... I'M HIV POSITIVE.

And so my story begins... I'm BACK IN THE CLOSET.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Examine the Vaccine

HIV VaccineThis past week, the world was rocked by news of the discovery of the first vaccine that prevents HIV. This development was certainly newsworthy, getting the attention of everything from our local Philippine Daily Inquirer, to the Associated Press. I was hearing about it as well, from everyone from fellow pozzies to friendly neggies. Everyone was excited.

How about me? Was I excited? I’ll be honest. Not really.

I apologize, but really, I was skeptical to begin with. I’d never read about any even minute developments towards a vaccine against HIV. It was just too out of the blue and too sudden to be a success, I thought. I know, my pessimism got ahead of me. I just needed to read all about it myself.

Modesty aside, I consider myself a scientist. It’s probably just my personality, reinforced by my educational background. Whether by induction or deduction, I run on reason. I run on questioning. I run on proof. I run on logic. Let’s find me some logic.

Before anything else, we must point out that the article talked about a vaccine, not a cure. So this is not something for us who already have the virus. This was something that would primarily benefit those who are not infected with HIV. With that taken into consideration, I’d be happy for those who are negative.

I think the most prominent phrase in the article is the part that says that “the vaccine cut the risk of becoming infected with HIV by more than 31 percent.” I’m sure most people will initially think Wow! upon hearing that, but something just struck me about the statement. Let’s see.

Vaccines supposedly prevent infection by a pathogen, which in this case is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Note, the word is prevent, not just reduce. Preventing infection, for me, means having zero chances of getting infected after vaccination. Zero. Zilch. Zip. None. Nada. So to merely cut the risk just doesn’t cut it. Ergo, I believe it should not have been called a “vaccine” in the first place.

Calling it a “vaccine” would just throw people into a false sense of security that with the so-called “vaccine”, they would be completely safe from catching HIV. It might just cause unprotected sex and other risky practices to break free from the word of caution that we’ve been trying to point out.

Okay, fine. The article did say benefits were modest. But anyone who hears of a lowering of the risk of HIV infection “by more than 31%” would be impressed. So how did they get “31%”? Let’s study the data.

Of the 8,198 who got the “placebo” or dummy shots, 74 got infected with HIV, amounting to 0.903%. While of the 8,197 who got the “vaccine”, 51 still got infected with HIV, amounting to 0.622%. The difference between the two is around 0.281%, which indeed accounts for 31.073% of 0.903%.

But really, how significantly far away is a 0.622% chance of getting infected from a 0.903% chance? With the “vaccine”, approximately 6 in every 1,000 people got infected. But even without the “vaccine”, the chances of getting infected were still small. Just 9 in every 1,000 people. The difference? For me, minute.

And then there are other peculiarities that I tend to notice. First, it is noted that the efficacy of the “vaccine” was tested against particular strains commonly found in Thailand. But then, of course, I’m not in Thailand. And around the world, there are different types of HIV, with each type having different strains. So it is a strain-specific “vaccine” to say the least. And along with that should burst the bubble of safe, carefree, unprotected sex.

“All were given condoms, counseling and treatment for any sexually transmitted infections, and were tested every six months for HIV. Anyone who became infected were given free treatment with antiviral medicines.”

Whoa! Wait a minute. Back it up. So it wasn’t just a battle between a “vaccine” and a placebo. Condoms were in the mix?! That’s a whole other factor which fucks up all the results, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t know if it was the “vaccine” that was working, or just the use of condoms. Hmm.

So there, I rest my case. Fine, it may be a breakthrough in the field of medicine. But wasn’t it a tad overrated? Tell me really, knowing that this “vaccine” reduces the rate of HIV infections from 9 to 6 out of 1,000, only for specific strains of HIV, and even with condoms playing an unknown factor... Would you still be willing to take the risk with this “vaccine”?


Anonymous said...

i agree with your sentiments especially the part wherein the condoms might have affected the 31% result.

i do have to say that scientifically vaccines are not 100% effective- meaning while it generally protects the body against aspecific disease, other factors such as a weakened immune system may still affect the inoculated. be that as it may, i personally think that the fact that it made the headlines is something to celebrate about.

Anonymous said...

I think in a disease that has plagued this planet for decades, and perhaps the first of its kind, which has so much issue (social, political, moral, etc.) attached to it, any sign of hope – no matter how small a step it is towards reaching a goal – is something worth of note.

After all, any kind of hope can conquer anything – even the darkness at the end of everything ;)

The Green Man said...

Hi B,

I liked what you pointed out about that vaccine. I must admit I was one fo those who got happy for the negative community that they have 31% chances of not acquiring the virus... but like everyone else, I felt deceived after reading your post.

Oh Well, it's still good to hope that things will turn out better... 31% is a small step... nevertheless it's still an attempt.

I may not live long enough to witness the discovery of the cure... but I am still 100% hopeful :-D

The Green Man,

Anonymous said...

too late! i might have the virus too. the 6th month from my last encounter is on november. my bestfriend who was my tourguide in manila during my april-may vacation confided me that he is hiv+ last september 24 lang, huhuhu! he was so unfair of not telling me or warning me atleast, he knew it even before my vacation came.

although i dont have direct sexual contact with him, im sure that the person whom he had sex with sucked me for more than once on different time.

now, paranohia is killing me softly. im in dubai, the moment that i will be tested positive, its like double-dead: inprisonment, deportation, ban, black-list, etc. im searching for any possible way to get a test and one way is to go home, how? dont have money yet and the regular medical test for labor card is on the way in the next 3 months.

he is my friend but still allow this to happen. how much more other people whom i dont know who frequenting bathouses & gay saunas which we've been on my vacation?

pos is like a BIG TIME terrorist, he can trigger a mass distruction if he/she wants at any time at no or less cost. mabuti pa nga bomba, mamamatay kang diretso o di kaya'y surgery is readily available if there are deformities that it will cause. pero ang hiv, lifetime. di lang ang biktima, pati ang pamilya at mga kamag-anak nito...

i asked him: bro di ka ba nakukunsyensya sa nagawa mo, u still have unprotected sex to others? and he just answered: yung nagbigay nga ng virus sa akin, hindi... why me?! naku po! kung bibilangin ko kung ilan during my vacation, kukulangin ang mga daliri. pero nagbago na daw sya, ang pahabol nya.

a reader from dubai...

Anonymous said...

hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day!

Anonymous said...

POS people should watch this so you can take your lives back.

HIV can be cleared according to the Nobel awardee for "HIV discovery".

Vaccine is not a success, in fact, it's a failure. It only protected 26%, not 31%.,8599,1929921,00.html

Historical Events concerning HIV/AIDS and the "consensus" (not proof) on HIV causing AIDS.