The Positive Side

Summer 2011 

Ron Rosenes (Spring/Summer 2004)

Age: 63
Toronto (“except for when I spend time with my partner, who lives in South Beach, mostly in the winter”)
CD4 count: “in the 500s”
Viral load: undetectable

“I am, to my great surprise, bearing witness to the greatest health challenge of our time. When I am not working to remove barriers for PHAs, I am most likely to be found creating a risotto, watching a film or doing yoga and just breathing.”

I am the vice-chair of CTAC (Canadian Treatment Action Council) and have served on the Board for the past 13 years. I have been able to do this as a volunteer, thanks to private long-term disability insurance (LTD), but that will end at age 65. As a result, I am planning to “go back to work,” mostly as a consultant. I am now on the roster of OODP (Ontario Organizational Development Program) consultants working with Ontario-based AIDS service organizations. Planning now for a future after LTD is entirely unexpected but, frankly, it’s a challenge I relish.

How would you describe your health?
I have been living with HIV since about 1981, so close to 30 years. I managed to hang on until we got triple therapy in 1996, perhaps due to a single Delta 32 mutation, which may have slowed disease progression. Today, I enjoy relatively good health thanks to meds but also to a highly refined program of exercise (mostly yoga), healthy eating and nutritional supplements. My viral load has been undetectable for many years and my CD4 count, which was zero for about five years, is now in the 500s. It was stagnant for many years at around 300 but took a big bounce that has been sustained since I started taking K-Pax (a high-dose mix of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants). Testosterone supplementation is another secret of my success — it helps with energy, lean muscle mass, bone mass and, best of all, libido.

Are you experiencing any specific issues around HIV or your treatment?
I have been treated for osteoporosis for the past 10 years and that seems to be under control. Apart from that, I worry about anal cancer and I think every sexually active poz man should be screened.

You were on the cover of the Spring/Summer 2004 issue, for a feature story about long-term survivors. Now, six years later, you’re being interviewed for this magazine again. How does that feel?
I didn’t think I would live to see 40 or 50. Now I am thinking ahead to 70 — if I don’t lose my mind and can keep productive. Life continues to give me much more than I ever hoped for. My partner of seven years recently lost a leg to an intractable hospital-acquired staph infection. This has been extremely challenging but has also helped me to keep things in perspective. We both cherish our feelings for each other and our ability to be able to live independently.

In one word, describe this moment in AIDS.
Hopeful, but guarded optimism would be more like it.

In 10 years…
I would like to still be living on my own in my loft, admiring the art I have collected over the years and able to recall the artists’ names.

What song is the soundtrack of your life?
The Verdi opera Rigoletto.