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Fall 2001
AIDS ad the Research Subject
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"THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE ARE THE VOLUNTEERS," ROGER DETELS SAYS. "THEY HAVE TO BE REMINDED OF THEIR OWN VULNERABILITY. THEY KNOW WHEN THINGS ARE GOING BAD, YET THEY KEEP COMING BACK."
There was another setback in 1999. Early hope that there might be a promising approach to the dilemma of resistance vanished when it became clear that intervention with powerful drugs at the earliest stages of infection wouldn't eradicate the virus. Even if HIV couldn't be measured in the blood, it was still there, lurking dormant in the cells.

"The scenario of hit hard, hit early, has been given up," Mitsuyasu says.

Michael was dejected by the setback and for nine months went off his medication, not taking a single pill. His dementia returned. In early 2000, Michael went on a new regimen, and "since then I've been feeling fairly healthy," he says.

Today he is involved in four different trials. The most important to him is Singer's National Neurological AIDS Brain Bank Study, a multicenter trial designed to clarify how AIDS affects the brain. In addition to regular MRIs, spinal taps and neurological exams, he also takes a battery of tests every three months to monitor his memory. When Michael and the other study volunteers die, their brains and vital organs will be donated for further research.

"When you talk about heaven," Michael says, "heaven is how you're remembered. When I'm gone, there's still going to be a memory of me."

The disappointment of that experience didn't faze him, however. Even failure, Michael says, is OK. "Every single bit of information is valuable, so nothing that is done is futile."

There was another setback in 1999. Early hope that there might be a promising approach to the dilemma of resistance vanished when it became clear that intervention with powerful drugs at the earliest stages of infection wouldn't eradicate the virus. Even if HIV couldn't be measured in the blood, it was still there, lurking dormant in the cells.

"The scenario of hit hard, hit early, has been given up," Mitsuyasu says.

Michael was dejected by the setback and for nine months went off his medication, not taking a single pill. His dementia returned. In early 2000, Michael went on a new regimen, and "since then I've been feeling fairly healthy," he says.

Today he is involved in four different trials. The most important to him is Singer's National Neurological AIDS Brain Bank Study, a multicenter trial designed to clarify how AIDS affects the brain. In addition to regular MRIs, spinal taps and neurological exams, he also takes a battery of tests every three months to monitor his memory. When Michael and the other study volunteers die, their brains and vital organs will be donated for further research.

"When you talk about heaven," Michael says, "heaven is how you're remembered. When I'm gone, there's still going to be a memory of me."

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