HIV no longer considered death sentence

Chinese students show their hands painted to look like red ribbons for World AIDS Day 2012.

Story highlights

  • Justin Goforth thought his 1992 diagnosis was a death sentence
  • Today, he counsels others that they can live a fairly normal life
  • Treatment breakthroughs and research have improved the outlook for HIV
Justin Goforth was just a 26-year-old nursing student when he had unprotected sex with another man and, as a result, got the diagnosis that changed his life.
"I started to feel like I had the flu -- aches, pains, chills, fever, swollen lymph nodes, that kind of thing -- and so I went to my doctor ... we did a viral load test, which was rare back then ... and he called me and said, you know, it came back (HIV) positive."
It was 1992. Goforth's doctor immediately sent him to the National Institutes of Health, where research was being done, but treatment options were, at the time, still few.
Patients were being treated with AZT, the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1987 to treat HIV/AIDS in the United States -- by then known for its serious, even life-threatening side effects.
The reality of the diagnosis set in.
Justin Goforth
"I was so sick," Goforth says. "I was sitting silently and crying because of my circumstance ... and the nurse came over and was trying to console me, I believe, and said ... 'Because you were ju