I'm Living With 'Poz Face'

A high number of people with AIDS (PWAs) take drug cocktails to keep the HIV viral load down and boost the immune system, and extended use of the medicines can lead to a side effect known as lipodystrophy, which is the body fat rearranging itself in several areas of the body.

When lipodystrophy affects the face, deep creases and crevices in the cheeks appear, and this was once known as protease face, but has since evolved into poz face.

Other ways lipodystrophy changes the body is when the back of the neck enlarges to the point of a buffalo hump shape, while the stomach expands into a protease paunch, which derives from one key ingredient to the drug cocktail. For some reason, this last term has not devolved to poz paunch.

I'm living with poz face, buffalo hump and protease paunch, and I'm lucky enough to have public insurance and access to top-notch doctors and researchers. The reason why I'm mentioning all this is to, you'll pardon the expression, put a face to what it is like to be a PWA in 2010, after more than a decade of being on ever-evolving cocktails.

I consider my poz face to be one of character, and won't be getting the facial filler treatment to puff up my cheeks. The looks of sadness, obnoxious emails from adversaries and occasional instant rejection when people on the street realize I'm a pozzie, are things I can live with.

Sure, it ain't pleasant to have these and other side effects to contend with, but I know how blessed I am to be alive and able to take the medicines, while too many PWAs perished before the development of these powerful, and expensive, drugs. Oh, what the dead would give to be here facing the weird body changes.

And when I get the temporary blues about my poz face, I think of Mick Jagger. He does not have AIDS, nor is he taking a cocktail, but these days he has the classic poz face and he doesn't seem to want facial filler or other surgery to deal with his facial creases.

I reserve the right to change my mind about the options available to me, but for the time being, my poz face remains the same. The important thing to remember is my inner strength and the love of my friends and family, no matter what changes my body goes through because of AIDS and the drugs.

(The Rolling Stone legend, Mick Jagger.)

[Guest blogger Michael Petrelis shares his views on gay and AIDS issues at the Petrelis Files.]