HIV is quite deadly today. However, due to the wide availability and notable success of many HIV pills, the fear of HIV contraction has dissipated in the last twenty years. According to many experts, the lack of fear is worrisome.
Doctors occasionally find it necessary to confront a ho-hum, just-another-pill reaction with the harsh reality: It’s still deadly. That pill can cost thousands of dollars a month. And it’s still risking the lives of many partners.
The journey from panic-inducing epidemic to mundane disease is “the bane of public health,” as one Denver expert puts it.
The announcement last week of an at-home test marked the success of medicine at the cost of productive popular fear. How do you combat what is still an epidemic when a test and a treatment seem so routine?
“People in their 20s, they’re pretty unfazed,” even when handed positive HIV test results, said Dr. Michelle Barron, an infectious-disease specialist with the University of Colorado Hospital and medical school. “They say, ‘Yeah, my friends take pills.’
“The normalization of the disease, now people live relatively normal, healthy lives, and that’s a great thing,” said Barron, echoing the conflicting thoughts of other Colorado HIV experts. “But not having seen people die changes people’s behavior. They just don’t get it.”