Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dear Brett

Dear Brett,

I went to high school and college from 1976 – 82.  I was a figure skater and for a bunch of reasons knew a lot of people who worked in the fashion industry in New York.  I grew up around gay people and had many as friends.

I remember hearing a few years after I graduated from College, after the birth of my first child, that one of my friends in high school had died of Aids.  He contracted it from a blood transfusion.  Then I heard that another friend from College had also died.  He was a brilliant man who spoke three languages, majored in biochemistry and was on his way to a top medical school.  He had come out as a gay man while we were in College. 

Then the trickle became a flood. I remember taking my kids to the beach house of a woman who was a friend and mentor to me.  She was one of the first women executives in the NY fashion industry.  She had a wall with snapshots on it at her house of all of her friends when they came to visit at her house.  She had started calling it her wall of the dead because so many of the pictures were of people who had died from complications resulting from Aids. The nature of the tragedy changed with the advent of a new generation of drugs.  People stopped dying and I stopped hearing about the tragedy.  I thought it was “under control”. 

What I didn’t realize until I met you was that the tragedy hadn’t gone away, but morphed into a hidden battle with chronic illness and slow physical deterioration.  You told me that living on anti retrovirals was like living on perpetual chemotherapy.  People struggled to eat, maintain weight, energy, they got sick, depressed, isolated, lonely.  They lost the ability to keep a job. They became poor, disabled, went on public assistance.  They needed help from people like you just to make it through the day.

It may not have to be this way.  This past spring an Epidemiologist from Albert Einstein hospital in New York came up to me at my booth at a tradeshow.  He said he had found my whey protein at whole foods in the city and started using it with some of the aids patients in their clinic.  They were doing better.  It helped them tolerate the drugs better, helped them retain body mass, seemed less prone to secondary infections. 

So I got onto PubMed and found that there is a body of research emerging that is documenting the benefits of whey protein for HIV positive patients.  The mechanism appears to related to whey’s ability to increase glutathione levels in HIV positive individuals.  HIV positive people tend to be glutathione deficient, which leaves their bodies without the major antioxidant they need to combat oxidative stress.  Both the disease and the meds HIV positive individuals take to combat the disease cause oxidative stress on their bodies, which means they need more not less glutathione.  There may be other elements of whey that are beneficial, including lactoferrin and immunoglobulins, but more research is needed to document this.

Could it be that HIV positive patients could use lower doses of their medications if they made whey protein a consistent part of their diet?  Could it help them better tolerate their meds, live more active lives, maybe even stay employed longer? 
The way the system works right now, indigent HIV positive patients have their medications covered by Medicare or Medicaid, but not things like whey protein.  Good quality whey protein is cost prohibitive.  The irony is that the lifetime cost of treating these people to society could be less if they had a way to get whey protein into their treatment regimes.

I so much admire the work you do, Brett, to help people with HIV and Aids cope with the litany of problems they face in their lives.  We seem to live in a world that demonizes the people around us who are most vulnerable and one of its effects is to perpetuate a disease abatement industry that costs ever more even as it steals people’s dignity from them.  People like you help them cope, but imagine actually being able to change their lives for the better at the cellular level. However improbable it seems at the moment, you and I get to always believe that it is possible that one day all of your patients can get access to teraswhey. 

With love always,


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