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The Mark of a Runner: T2+

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David in Wristband.jpgMy running look used to be complete with sunglasses, shorts, and a TEAM TO END AIDS (T2) singlet--the mark of a training program that fights HIV/AIDS with endurance sports. This year, however, I've expanded my wardrobe.

I now don a lime-green wristband that reads, "T2+," wearing my HIV status on my sleeve, literally. I'm not alone either. Many of my teammates who are also HIV positive wear a T2+ wristband.

It's subtle and most people who see it won't understand the reference, but for me it speaks volumes: Instead of dying from HIV/AIDS, I'm living with it--and living quite well.

Running has been my constant companion, even before my HIV diagnosis in 1994. Back then, my typical run was shorter as my impatience was greater. My exercise routines mimicked the contours of my life. Desperate to seize every fleeting moment, I favored short sprints over long, meandering runs. My attentions raced to make the most of a young, abbreviated life.

My pessimism was justified. An estimated 40,000 people died of AIDS in the U.S. the year I was diagnosed--50,000 the following year. I was 25 years old.

It's hard to remember what it was like to run, or even live, without HIV. I'll never know what difference HIV made in my athletic abilities, recoveries, or injuries; but the changes in my running after antiretroviral therapy were dramatic.

I feared drugs for years because they represented an illness I struggled to accept, delaying my therapy. To swallow a daily reminder of HIV seemed, back then, too much to bear. I expected disappointments, scary side effects, drug resistance. In 1996, scientists lauded multi-drug combination therapy as a major breakthrough, but I remained suspect. I braced for more bad news; I had been let down before.

Getting into a pool meant a sinus infection would surely follow. And running in intrepid weather, rain or cool temperatures was completely out of the question.

By 2004, facing a depleted immune system and sapped energy, I relented. Despite some initial side effects, I adjusted well to therapy. My viral load immediately declined to undetectable levels and my immune-system counts reversed their characteristic decline.

But most remarkably, I became healthier, stronger, more alert, more alive. Before therapy, catching a cold was a monthly occurrence. And colds readily cycled into fever-filled bronchitis or worse.

With therapy, my world changed. I ran my first of many marathons at age 35. I rediscovered running in the leaves of fall and in the deep freeze of winter. Not only did I conquer the pool, I trained for a triathlon in Lake Michigan!

Today, I face the challenges of most 43-year-old marathoners: less flexibility, less resiliency. I sweat excessively and battle frequent cramps, and recovering from long runs is an intentional process. But I love the sport as much as ever and believe that that's what this green wristband is all about: It reminds me that living with HIV/AIDS takes dedication and perseverance, toughness and sweat.

It says quite simply that if you want to beat this disease, if you want to be T2+, you have to be strong.

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Comments on David Ernesto Munar's blog entry "The Mark of a Runner: T2+"

I was diagnosed 11 years ago and was with my boyfriend who later became my husband....during that time I was n't scared of the disease as much as I was about people finding out....in 2007 I had a daughter who is HIV negative...her father, who is now my ex husband, is HIV negative as well...my daughter is now 6 and her father went around telling people I am HIV+...I live in Southern IL and the people that have told me that they heard that I was don't believe me cuz I have been strong and was able to lose 150 lbs the healthy way and keep it off by making exercise a part of my daily life..
Being HIV + didn't really bother me until my ex started talking about me in that way just so no other will want me...I have been treated the worst in these small towns in Southern IL because people don't understand the disease ....still believe what they learned in the 90s. I have now been told that I have changed peoples lives that are close to me now because I continue to be strong and not let it beat me because when the rumors start to fall around my daughter about her mother I want to be the one that will be there for her to end the stigma around HIV.
I am looking for new ways to help people not be so afraid...
thank you for your time.

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This page contains a single entry by David Ernesto Munar published on August 26, 2013 12:57 PM.

Moving Forward on Marriage Equality was the previous entry in this blog.

The Timeless Virtue of The Normal Heart is the next entry in this blog.

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