AIDS Research Creates Hope and Saves Lives
As I read the news of the infant girl in Mississippi who had been ‘functionally cured’ of HIV, it renews my faith and reenergizes my hope that we will one day find a cure for this deadly virus.
In 1981, at the age of two, I was unknowingly infected with HIV through a blood transfusion I received while being treated for another deadly disease—cancer. In the 1980s, virtually nothing was known about pediatric HIV infections. But in the 1990s, scientists made new discoveries in the world of pediatric HIV and pediatric AIDS, and more medications and treatments were made available to children. In the year 2000, we started a new decade and a new century that would see even more dramatic medical advancements within the AIDS community. I am very lucky and blessed to be living at a time when HIV/AIDS scientists and researchers are making breakthroughs by leaps and bounds.
I survived all these decades to see adulthood and create plans for the future. My goals included graduating from college, having a career, getting married, and starting a family. Today, I have three degrees, manage a successful restaurant, and am married to my wife, Kasiah—the love of my life. In a few weeks, I will get to meet my unborn HIV-negative child! I am one lucky man, who has lived a life far better than any movie script.
I am here today because of the fighting spirit of Elizabeth Glaser and her vision to eliminate pediatric AIDS. The fact that my unborn child soon will be born HIV-negative is the result of Elizabeth’s tireless efforts many years ago, and the collaborative efforts of scientists and researchers throughout the country and around the world. For me specifically, I was aided by the knowledge and help of the Bedford Research Foundation, Virginia IVF and Andrology Center, and Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. They helped me keep Kasiah and my unborn child healthy. These pivotal discoveries are not made alone, but through collaborative efforts and sharing knowledge and data.
What was science fiction 10 years ago is reality today. To me, today’s HIV/AIDS scientists and researchers can be mentioned in the same breath as medical geniuses like Louis Pasteur and Edward Jenner. We must not forget that where we have been will help us lay the path to a cure. The cure may not be found today or tomorrow, but we are heading in the right direction.
Ben Banks is an Ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. In his role, Ben travels around the country educating individuals about pediatric AIDS through his personal story and advocating on behalf of families affected by HIV. He lives in Ashland, Virginia and is expecting his first child in April with his wife, Kasiah.