June 5, 2006: AIDS first identified 25 years ago

June 5, 2006: AIDS first identified 25 years ago

AIDS first identified 25 years ago

05:52 PM EDT on Monday, June 5, 2006

For Nelson Vergel, remembering the early days of aids is difficult.

“All my friends from the ‘80s are dead, the early ‘90s are dead.”

He was only 25 in 1985 when he found out he was HIV positive.

“Back then we had no drugs, no hope,” he said. “I was told to go home and pray and take care of myself and put things in order.”

And he did. And he kept waiting to die. But he didn’t.

About 10 years later, some powerful AIDS drugs became available and transformed treatment of HIV.

Dr. Michael Gottlieb saw some of the first cases of AIDS and lost many patients. He remembers what a difference the drug “cocktail” made: “People were able to leave hospital beds and live functional somewhat normal lives.”

Today, 22 drugs are available. And even though they must be taken for life, for many patients HIV no longer means certain death. Nelson has tried them all. But the virus can mutate around the drugs

“I’m already resistant to all available HIV medications but my health is stable, I’m just waiting for the next best thing.”

In the meantime, he takes six pills a day to weaken his virus as much as possible and hopefully buy time. And he wants his life to be a warning to keep others from getting infected.

“This is an illness that can hit anybody: gay, straight, black, white, Latino, Asian, anybody. Young and old, it will change your life. There is no cure.”

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