I'm Gonna Wipe That AIDS Right Off My Face

It was all well and good to be front and center as an HIV-positive man during the first years of the AIDS crisis. It's easier being a role model when your face looks good on the poster. But then, slowly but surely, a common side effect of HIV medications, facial wasting, began to appear.

My dismay over my facial wasting surprised me, and it pitted two strong emotions against one another: my pride in being a longtime HIV/AIDS survivor, and my shame about looking like one. I'm only human.

So, for several years now, I've made the occasional pilgrimage to Vero Beach, Fla., to be treated by Dr. Gerald Pierone for facial wasting, or lipoatrophy. And for all these years we have battled "The Look": the sunken cheeks and sagging face of someone who has been on HIV medications for a long time. In my latest video blog below, you're going to see our progress, step by step:

There is an emotional component to facial wasting, because it forces us to address our own vanity, as well as the very real, physical results of HIV medications, which often affect people who have had no other manifestations of the disease. I've tried to address these issues in past blog posts, but to be honest, I have put more time and effort into just trying to wipe the AIDS right off my face.

Gay men are particularly good at identifying The Look. We may consider it a badge of honor or a sad battle scar, but we know what causes it: HIV disease. If you could erase the evidence of your HIV infection, would you do it? For me the answer was simple, not inexpensive and worth every cent.

For my earlier treatments, Dr. Pierone used Sculptra and Radiesse,* both effective but temporary solutions to facial wasting. (Results vary, but they typically last somewhere between six months and two years.) Beginning with my last appointment a year ago (shown in a previous video blog), Dr. Pierone began using Artefill, a more permanent filler product. (Dr. Pierone wisely does these treatments in careful stages.) But because Artefill is not FDA-approved specifically for facial wasting (it is approved for cosmetic use), it cannot offer the same kind of patient assistance programs as Sculptra and Radiesse. New studies are currently underway to show what we already know: Artefill is safe and effective for facial wasting. We can assume that once Artefill is approved for this purpose, the manufacturer will join the patient assistance bandwagon.

Thanks for watching my video, and please be well.

*It's worth mentioning that I do not receive promotional consideration from the makers of Sculptra, Radiesse or Artefill. I'm simply sharing my experience with facial wasting, and I'm sure that "results may vary," as they say.