Beyond Doom And Gloom
Local HEAL head Michelle Rolfe is tired of the bad news about AIDS.
Thursday, September 17, 1998
Monterey HEAL head Michelle Rolfe has kept low-key about her HIV-positive status since she was first handed her test results 10 years ago by the Monterey County Health Department.
She was 21 years old and convinced she was about to die. Whenever she got a cold, or a yeast infection, she went into a panic. But as time passed, and she didn''t die, or weaken, or become chronically ill, she began to calm down and wonder what was going on. She found out about a group of long-term survivors, and scientific researchers, who were questioning the AIDS paradigm. Slowly, she began to think that maybe she did not have a fatal disease. Maybe, she simply had HIV antibodies in her bloodstream, and maybe those antibodies did not mean she would develop AIDS.
She never took AZT, but not because she refused the treatment. When she was diagnosed in 1988, AZT was only given to people with extremely low T-cell counts, and her count was normal. Today, however, she consciously avoids taking AIDS drugs, although she says doctors continually pressure her to go on combination regimens. "When I walk into a doctor''s office, they tell me that I can either take the drugs, or expect nothing but a slow decline and eventual demise," she says. "How can they say that to someone who''s been healthy for 10 years?"
Rolfe is furious at the years she wasted living in fear, when she could have been simply living. While emphasizing that HEAL does not dispense medical advice, she goes on in the next sentence to say the group disavows taking drugs prophylactically, and advises people instead to treat illnesses as they arise: If you get pneumonia, treat the pneumonia; If you get a yeast infection, treat the yeast infection. She and other HEAL activists are appalled at what they consider a national race for new AIDS drugs, which are put on the market often still at the experimental stage, and then withdrawn or changed when side effects emerge.
"Why are they doing it?" she asks. "Because it''s all they have. There''s a sense of being out of control, of killing people with toxic drugs instead of finding a way to heal them."
A death sentence is self-fulfilling, Rolfe says. The depression that follows on the heels of an HIV-positive test result can lead a person down the path to illness and death, just as surely as a positive attitude can help bolster the immune system and encourage good health. Rolfe learned that herself when she started seeing a hypnotherapist five years ago to treat her depression. The medical establishment recognizes the importance of positive thinking in all other diseases, she says, so why shouldn''t it be true when it comes to AIDS?
"The reason I''m willing to come out publicly now is that I assume there are a lot of people out there like me who are HIV-positive, and who don''t have any support for the choices they''ve made not to take the drugs, and to live as normal a life as possible," she says. "They''re told, if you''re not planning for death, you''re in denial."
Rolfe''s motivation, like Collins'', is deeply personal, deriving from her own experience over ten years of living with HIV.
"People are surviving, when they''re told they should have died, and our survival is being completely, cruelly denied," she charges. "And I''m angry. Our slogan is, ''Sick Of It All.''
"It''s not all gloom and doom," she says. "AIDS is treatable with, first, a hopeful attitude."