Seventeen years from the edge of the abyss

Published 12, Aug, 2013
Author // Guest Authors - Revolving Door

David Hoe was diagnosed with HIV in 1988. He was within days of death in 1996 when new drugs pulled him back from the brink. Now 70, Hoe is alive to tell the tale to a new generation that has lost the fear factor.

Seventeen years from the edge of the abyss

Photograph by: Jean Levac , Ottawa Citizen

By Joanne Laucius, From  OTTAWA CITIZEN August 7

DAVID HOE is an AIDS activist and former federal public health adviser. He learned he had HIV in 1988 and almost died in 1996 before he was pulled from the brink by the arrival of new antiviral drugs. He recently celebrated his 70th birthday and is among the growing number of HIV survivors who are living well into their retirement years.

David Hoe calls it “the Lazarus thing.”

In 1996, he was almost dead. Diagnosed with HIV in 1988 — he believes he was infected in 1984 — Hoe counted on his “caring circle” for almost 30 friends for every need. He had put all of his affairs in order and was unable to walk when he started to take the newly-introduced protease inhibitors.

“They worked within seconds,” says Hoe.

Some 17 years later, the drugs that signalled an optimistic new era for HIV-positive patients are still working for Hoe. He celebrated his 70th birthday in June and is one of the oldest HIV-positive men in Ottawa.

“The virus that used to kill people is now managed,” says Dr. Mark Wainberg, director of the McGill University AIDS Centre at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital.

While life expectancy can be diminished because the drugs bring an increased risk of heart attack and cancer, some HIV-positive people are now living into their 80s, says Wainberg. It’s time to think both about the issues around treating older patients as well as prevention for a new generation that no longer equates HIV with a death sentence.

Prevention efforts now face a new challenge — and partly its because of people like himself, says Hoe, who is now a life coach and president of the Ontario HIV Treatment Network.

“A lot of people think it has been cured. But the infection rate keeps going up,” he says.

“We have a generation that thinks there is no need to worry."

The story of the last 30 years of his life is almost a historical perspective at this point, says Hoe.

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Guest Authors - Revolving Door

Guest Authors - Revolving Door

The Revolving Door is the place where we publish occasional articles by guest writers. If you would like to submit an article for publication, please contact editor Bob Leahy at