Tuesday, May 5, 2020

2020 AIDS Vaccine Ride detour

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" but another pandemic can certainly try! As you likely guessed, the 2020 AIDS Vaccine 200 has been cancelled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. No road training, bike packing or wondering what the weather will throw our way this year. Like the rest of you, our usual paths have been altered by this new deadly virus and I pray you and your loved ones have managed to stay healthy and safe from its grip.

It's been a little scary for those of us with front row seats to the last one but I find comfort in the path we have taken together, bringing hope to the journey of those fighting HIV/AIDS. I knew the nation was in good hands with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx were on the Coronavirus Task Force. I knew the same science Emory Vaccine Center applied daily in advancing work to find an HIV vaccine could be applied to this Coronavirus just as it did for Ebola and the Hope Clinic stood ready to conduct human trials. One look at the list of COVID-19 research projects underway at the Emory Vaccine Center gave me comfort to see the names of those whose tenacity with HIV/AIDS work is a comforting inspiration every May - Ahmed, Amara, Bosinger, Altman and more.

Several of you make such a habit of giving to this cause that you did so early and even after likely knowing it would be cancelled. I am grateful for your generosity and trust in Action Cycling Atlanta to ensure every penny is still directed to fighting HIV/AIDS whether or not we ride.

This month marks the 10th year that my Puget Sound Rider co-captain, Mary Harding, and I have brought you along on the AV200. This week also marks 25 years since both Mary and I lost our brothers, Peter and Bret, to HIV/AIDS. Sometime over this ride weekend we'll pause our pedaling and raise a toast to making progress on our "appointed rounds".


Monday, April 27, 2020

Hope for Every Journey

Isolation, uncertainty, fear. The more time spent in this space, the more I gravitate to Daphne. Situated in the very middle of my backyard, the sweet fragrance catches me in my tracks every time, forces me to pause, take a deep breath and replace all that troubles my mind with beauty and joy and
hope. Just for a moment, yet a moment remembered.

The first time Daphne nudged me with her healing power was brought about by another deadly virus, HIV. That April was also a time of fear coupled with many hours of isolating silence spent sitting with Bret as he moved in and out of a coma and the uncertainty of how long each would last or if it was his last. Every trip to Bret’s apartment brought me through the front gate under a lush arbor of Daphne that I hadn’t even noticed until the fragrance caught me off guard and made me stop every time to breathe deep, overcoming my fears with hope for just a moment.

That moment of hope took root in my life as I searched out ways to bring more of it into millions of lives affected by HIV. The journey led me to support healthcare professionals who’d bend the rules to ensure Bret’s leftover, expensive) AZT drugs were not wasted, service organizations that evolved from gentle guidance through the dying process to treatment planning and advocates for workplace policies to meet the unique needs of a life lived longer with HIV. Through it all, scientists and researchers press forward to slowly move a deadly virus to a manageable and ultimately harmless one. Along the way I observed the global scientific community discover the value of cooperation over competition and the efficiency of cross-testing findings from one field into another. The HIV Vaccine Trials Network/HVTN global collaboration of clinics who have played a part in every HIV vaccine trial in humans was founded by the research institute widely known as an innovator in cancer research. The newly branded Fred Hutch now proudly lends its vast knowledge to any and all cures that save lives.

Next month would have been my 10th year cycling through Georgia as a reminder that the HIV pandemic is not yet eradicated and gratefully passing your financial support to HIV/AIDS research conducted at the Emory Vaccine Center. Neighboring the CDC, the EVC is skilled at the nimble shift of resources and learnings from steady progress in immunology against HIV to quickly address the latest threat to global health, be it Ebola or COVID-19. Our cycling event, the AIDS Vaccine 200, was cancelled this year due to the latter though I take comfort in my familiarity with the level of dedication these communities place on our global health and how urgent is their desire to ease the burden of front-line healthcare workers and my confidence in the vast array of HIV/AIDS support organizations to stay the course in the meantime.

I’m not immune to the fear and uncertainty brought on by this latest viral pandemic but the past 25 years have taught me to relax more into the beauty, remember to trust in hope, and breathe in deep. Thanks, Daphne.
This post is dedicated to the memory of lives lost in the early days of viral pandemics, when fear and uncertainty is at its peak, to the brave souls who hold their hands and the constant love of God to bring peace.