The Positive Side

Winter 2016 

Editor's Letter

By Debbie Koenig


Happy birthday, ART! The year 2016 marks two decades since effective HIV meds first came on the scene. After a mystery virus mercilessly killed people by the thousands, new medication combos that could suppress the virus allowed people to literally rise from their deathbeds. Cured of previously incurable AIDS-related illnesses, people living with HIV could suddenly resume their lives. Today those potent pills are more potent, simpler to take and the side effects are a whole lot easier to swallow.

And the major turning points in the treatment story keep coming. We’ve now learned about the power of treatment as prevention (maintaining an undetectable viral load can dramatically lower the risk of transmitting HIV) and of the huge health benefits of starting treatment ASAP.

To mark this milestone, we devote much of this issue to exploring the lifesaving impacts of antiretroviral therapy (ART). How has ART changed what it means to be HIV positive? Treatment activist Darien Taylor kicks things off with a historical and personal perspective in “Treatment Turns 20.” Dr. Philip Berger offers a gripping account of how dramatically care has changed during his 35 years working the front lines. Counsellor John Larsson tells us that HIV is about so much more than just a virus. Four HIV-positive people recount their relationships with their meds. CATIE’s Sean Hosein looks at the past, present and future of how we approach treatment. And Dr. Lisa Barrett reports on the myriad views of what it means to be poz.

HIV treatment is a medical success story. But, as veteran activist Tim McCaskell attests to in “The Push for Access,” progress has been hard fought and too many people around the world still lack basic access. So the struggle continues.

The lack of HIV care pushes many to leave their home countries to secure treatment and build a better future. In “Border Crossings,” Esther and Marvelous describe their journeys from Zimbabwe to Canada to do just that.

We hope you enjoy this special edition. We always want to know your thoughts. This is your magazine, so don’t hold back! Send your feedback and wishes to me at