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Stephen Gendin
(February 20, 1966 - July 19, 2000) USA

Stephen Gendin

Aids activist

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Stephen Gendin was a prominent Aids activists in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, whose advocacy is credited for having promoted constructive changes in government policy that would improve the lives of HIV-positive people. Gendin was involved with ACT UP, ActUp/RI, Sex Panic!, Community Prescription Service, POZ Magazine, and the Radical Faeries. Gendin, whom himself was HIV-positive, dedicated the last fifteen years of his life to help care for those also living with HIV/AIDS. He was a founder and the chief executive of the Community Prescription Service, a mail-order pharmacy service that also distributes information designed to help people with HIV and AIDS.

Stephen was raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he learned that he was HIV positive as a first-year student in 1985. He aggressively experimented with new medications for HIV and maintained a healthy and active lifestyle for many years until his death. Stephen, despite not having a medical degree, had already been recognized as a genius and was offered membership into Mensa. After learning at age 19 that he was infected with HIV, Stephen quickly became at least as well informed about the latest HIV medical research as many leading HIV specialists, and remained so until his death.

Stephen GendinHe understood (as few others do to this day) that HIV diagnostic tests detect not the HIV virus but HIV's human antibodies, which do not exist in sufficient quantity for a "positive" HIV test result until between two and twenty-four weeks after HIV infection. During this immensely variable "window period," people infected with HIV test "negative" because they have very few antibodies fighting the virus, as a direct consequence of which they also have very high levels of HIV in their bodies. These recently infected persons are usually unaware that they are infected at all, and firmly though wrongly believe that recent "HIV-negative" test results "prove" that they are not infected and cannot infect others.

During his lifetime, Stephen was largely ignored in warning about the high risk of transmission from persons testing negative during this time period which researchers have dubbed the "window period". Medical science has since confirmed that those recently infected with HIV, who still test "HIV-negative," are most highly contagious for HIV, because of their much higher HIV viral levels compared to persons outside the "window period," The latter group's "positive" HIV test results indicate that HIV antibodies are suppressing (though never eliminating) HIV levels in their bodies, therefore reducing their infectiousness, reduced still further when patients commence antiretroviral treatment.

Stephen also became regular columnist for the magazine POZ. In the column, he discussed in graphic detail the toll AIDS took on his body, his fantasies of political assassination and his deeply conflicted feelings of guilt and pleasure from having unprotected sex. Although the latter article incited outrage among many gay men at the time, after his death, many recognized that his controversial disclosures provoked life-saving awareness among gay men of the risks involved in increasingly widespread but rarely discussed practices of unprotected intercourse, especially among persons who incorrectly presumed (as many still do) that a "negative" HIV test result demonstrated the absence of infection when tested.

Stephen died from Aids-induced lymphoma at the age of 34. In the summer of 2000, Stephen's death was eulogized in a widely-reprinted speech by Larry Kramer. The chemotherapy he was receiving to treat the disease put him into cardiac arrest. His activism was pivotal in reforming the FDA drug approval process to expedite HIV and Aids patients' access to more effective anti-retroviral treatments. Because of his efforts, some people living with HIV today believe Stephen Gendin was a "superhero".

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Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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