Steven S. Muchnick, PhD (Steve)
How has HIV affected my life and what motivated me to become an advocate?
I live in San Francisco. I’m 71 (my birthday is World AIDS Day) and I’m retired. Though there was no test yet, HIV had not been discovered, and AIDS didn’t even have a final name then, I’m certain I have been HIV+ since the summer of 1982.
During the years from 1981 until triple combination therapy became available in 1997, most of us who had AIDS were fighting for our lives and losing lovers, friends, and others in our lives continually. I have kept a list of people in my life who have died of AIDS-related causes that now has 195 names on it. It includes the lover with whom I became infected (he died in 1988); the two closest friends I have had in my adult life; many members of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, whose board I was president of in 1983; and on and on and on.
I have been a progressive political activist since the late 1960s, so it was both necessary and natural for me to become an AIDS advocate/activist very early in the epidemic. My motivation has three parts: (1) to save my own life and the lives of my community, both near and far; (2) to accelerate the development of treatments for HIV/AIDS and the opportunistic infections and cancers that have affected so many of us; and (3) to contribute in any way I can to ending the pandemic.
What would an HIV cure mean to me and to my community?
I believe very strongly that to end the pandemic we need both an effective vaccine and a cure that is relatively easy to administer and not particularly difficult for the patient. In the meantime, we need highly effective treatments and continuing research into all aspects of HIV/AIDS and related fields such as immunology. As a result, I have ten HIV-related volunteer activities spanning the field from prevention through treatment and cure research that are local, national, and international.
At 71 and long-term HIV+ I am statistically about ten years older biologically than chronologically, so a cure might not mean much for me personally. However, as noted above, I believe it is an essential element of ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic, so it’s fundamental not just for my community but for the world.
What scientific and community engagement work excites me most about the DARE Collaboratory?
What excites me most is twofold. First, I am excited that DARE is an international collaboratory doing basic research and small clinical trials that will, I strongly believe, contribute to developing a cure. It has four initial research focuses that are all fundamental to this.