The Positive Side

Summer 2011 

Jake Peters (Fall/Winter 2003)

Age: 60
“Loves a good book, good music and a good meal with a friend; there’s always a little sadness for the ones who are gone.”
Living with HIV for 27 years
CD4 count: 880
Viral load: undetectable

“I teach yoga, take classical guitar lessons, participate in a creative writing workshop, recently exhibited a collection of portraits at the Toronto Public Library and continue my work in photography.”

How would you describe your health?

Are you experiencing any specific issues around HIV or your treatment?
The HIV is under control.

In your cover story for The Positive Side in 2003, you were dealing with some intense symptoms of lipodystrophy. Is it still a big factor in your life?
I recently suspended antibiotic therapy for a stubborn infection connected to Bio-Alcamid correction. (Bio-Alcamid is a gel product injected under the skin to fill deforming, wasting hollows from injury and ailments, including HIV-related lipodystrophy.) My surgeon and I had a disagreement about the results. I was unhappy with my appearance; I felt that he had injected too much product and that it was uneven. I couldn’t get used to the feeling of this alien material under my skin, so I decided to have it removed.

It’s not as easy as the product manufacturer implied it would be. I consulted another surgeon, who agreed with me about my complaint. He is removing some product by squeezing it out. It’s a slow, painful process, with risk of infection via the puncture wounds. After my third session, I erred on the prophylaxis antibiotic dosage and acquired an infection. If an infection occurs, it’s difficult to treat because, with no blood flow through the Bio-Alcamid, the antibiotic doesn’t easily reach the bacteria. The infection troubled me for three months, requiring numerous visits to the emergency room and weeks of IV antibiotic treatment. In the midst of it, I suffered a kidney stone.

The next Bio-Alcamid drainage session should be the last. The small amount remaining in my cheeks should suffice to address the wasting that drove me to get the product. To sum up: I was given too much product to begin with.

Have you gone through any major life changes since appearing on the cover?
I’ve expanded my learning horizons. Important to me now are my inspired writing instructor and learning to play one of the most beautiful instruments, the classical guitar.

In one word, describe this moment in AIDS.

What song is the soundtrack of your life?
“Nights on Broadway” by the Bee Gees.