Nathan Measom was diagnosed with HIV when he was 20 years old.
"I had flu-like symptoms that wouldn't go away," Nathan says. "After a month, my doctor asked me if I thought I might be at risk for HIV, and I was tested."
"Looking back, it almost seems like something that happened in a past life," he says. "It's hard to say what I felt-I was pretty numb. One thing I remember clearly was that I was with friends when I got the results of my test. I immediately called some other friends who dropped what they were doing and came to my apartment, where we all sat and talked. I felt very lucky to be surrounded by such supportive people. It was at the same time the best and worst night of my life."
Nathan's doctor conducted tests and determined that he should go on HIV medications right away. "I started with a three-pill regimen," Nathan says. "I'm currently on a one-pill-a-day treatment. It's so much better, so much more manageable. The side effects are minimal. I'm healthy, and I feel good."
Nathan worries about the apathy of people in his generation toward HIV and AIDS.
"I was born in 1981, the year the first cases of AIDS were identified in the United States," says Nathan Measom. "So I've never known a world without HIV. At the same time, I have no memory of the really devastating years. By the time I came of age, HIV was a controllable, chronic disease. I had volunteered with AIDS agencies before I was infected, so I was reasonably well-informed about the risks. But it still happened to me. It can happen to anyone. The rates of infection in Utah are rising and the age of infection is dropping. Prevention is more important than ever. Deciding to get involved was one of the more empowering decisions I ever made."
Nathan jumped into the fight with both feet. For the past two years, he has been the Development Director for the Utah AIDS Foundation in Salt Lake City, Utah. His responsibilities include managing all aspects of fund-raising, including private donations and coordination of such events as the Salt Lake City AIDS Walk and the annual Oscar Gala.
"The Utah AIDS Foundation has two primary areas of focus," Nathan says. "One is prevention. We work mainly with the two groups most at risk in our area: men who have sex with men; and Spanish-speaking immigrants, who have a disproportionately high rate of infections. We do on-site and mobile testing, racking up roughly 4,000 tests a year."
"Our second primary area of focus is direct client service for those with HIV, working to ensure they get the best possible care. We have on-site case management, so those who test positive can link up with medical care right away."
Nathan's fund-raising activities are especially important in Utah, a very conservative state, where it can be hard to talk about HIV.
"Last year, we decided to forgo federal funds for prevention because of heavy restrictions the state of Utah put on what we could say. We didn't think we could abide by their restrictions and still serve our community. So now we rely heavily on private donations to get the word out."
If you would like to help, link to UtahAIDS.org to learn more or make a donation. Or, call (801) 487-2323.
Although Nathan struggles with HIV day-to-day, he says it is really hard for him to look on his diagnosis with regret.
"It helped make me who I am," Nathan says. "It motivated me to enjoy life more. I appreciate my friends and family more, and I'm not afraid. What is there to be afraid of when the worst has already happened? Most importantly, I feel happy today-and happy people make healthy decisions."
Nathan's advice for those newly infected?
"Don't be embarrassed or ashamed," Nathan says. "Don't be afraid to stand up against the stigma. Not everyone will be supportive, but the people you really want to be in your life will love you no matter what."
"Choose to be a fighter," Nathan says. "Get involved. Volunteer. Helping others is one of the most effective ways of helping yourself."
Copyright 2015, Positive Health Publications, Inc.
This magazine is intended to enhance your relationship with your doctor - not replace it! Medical treatments and products should always be discussed with a licensed physician who has experience treating HIV and AIDS!