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The Cure

Is the Hope for a Miracle Cure Just Magical Thinking?


The hope for a cure to HIV has existed since the beginning of the epidemic, but even as it appears we are on the verge of a cure, hope,  and vigilant personal responsibility are more important than ever.

I can’t stop myself from hoping that someday we will see a miracle cure and HIV will be history. I know this isn’t realistic. But whenever I see a mention of a miracle cure, I can’t stop myself from checking it out. Always disappointing. Should I give up hope? 

In my experience, we hear those words a lot when we are talking about HIV. Let’s start with hope. Hope for what? Well, for a lot of things. Hope for a good day. Hope for understanding. Hope for effective health care.

And for you, like many other people living with HIV — hope  for new directions in treatment. Hope can motivate you to stay super informed about HIV, to research the latest and greatest treatments. Hope is empowering. 

Hope can also cause you to take a moment to take a quick look, or a long look, when you run across words like “revolutionary,” “breakthrough,” and, most seductive of all, “miracle.” 

I see advertisements for miracle HIV cures all over the Internet. But often debunked in articles written by what I assume to be responsible journalists. 

Should we hope for miracles? 

I have to admit that I often pause when I run across medical miracles in any form, especially if related to HIV. First of all, I’m hoping along with my clients for better days ahead in the treatment of HIV. And I’m naturally curious about what’s being described as a miracle. Clients often share information with me about new treatments, some of them outside of traditional medical practice. 

But even if you’ve repeatedly read about miracle cures that weren’t so miraculous, I think there’s a side of us that can’t help but wonder, “what if there is a miracle out there, something way outside of the traditional medical approaches that just might provide an answer that was right under our noses all this time? Or what if a something really innovative is around the corner?” 

And then hope kicks in. Sure, you’re skeptical. You remember how annoyed you were the last time you got caught up in reading about a supposed miracle cure. But you read on. Just in case.   

Let’s face it, sometimes all that compliance gets old. Compliance — your medication regimen, you check-ups, maybe big copayments — is no party, or at least not the party you wanted to be invited to. So who wouldn’t want to hear about a way for all those compliance responsibilities to miraculously disappear? 

Hoping for a miracle is part of our culture. How often does the word “miracle” slip into your conversations? It’s a word we use a lot, in relation to all kinds of things. For many of us, miracles are a big part of the religious teachings we grew up with. We’ve been taught to believe in miracles, even witnessed a few. So it’s no surprise that offers of miracles might catch your eye.

Be aware of the downside of chasing after a miracle. Chances are, you aren’t actually taking the time to pursue any of the miracle cures you see advertised, once you have read the fine print and given it some thought. But offers of miracle cures can lead to what mental health professionals call “magical thinking”: hoping for something that isn’t real. That’s a road that can lead to taking chances with your health as well as setting yourself up for disappointment. 

Miracles or not, don’t give up on hope.  Medical breakthroughs happen. Some even miraculous. So let yourself take a second look at the latest ad for a miracle cure. Why not? But be an expert on your condition. Balance hope with research and realistic thinking. Stay optimistic about the future. That’s what motivates you to keep going when the going is rough. 

Did anybody say miracle? You’re doing what you need to do to take the best possible care of yourself. Day after day. You’re the miracle!  

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Gary McClain