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Corona Chronicles – June 2021

Graph new infections by age – COVID Symptom Study 7 June 2021

We are currently experiencing a surge of new COVID case with the latest Delta variant that was first detected in India. This variant is twice as contagious as the original strain. According to my trusted source for all things COVID related, Professor Tim Spector, the rise in cases is a cause for concern. However, most of the recent reports on the COVID Study app show these individuals are young, unvaccinated or have only had one vaccination. Surprisingly, the top four symptoms amongst these newly infected are more like those of the common cold – headaches, sore throat, runny nose and fever which are different from the classic symptoms of continuous cough, high temperature and loss of smell. Although people who have been doubly vaccinated can still be infected by the new variant, data from the Study app shows that they are more likely to have only mild symptoms and to recover quickly without the need for hospitalization. Well that’s a relief!

Shallowford Nature Reserve

Having a weekend of respite with other people living with HIV offered a welcome, much needed break – the National Long Term Survivors Group (NLTSG) now opens its residential weekends to anyone living with HIV. It is now called HiVatility. The end of May was the first time the group had been able to meet…under strict COVID guidelines, of course. It was also the first time that dogs were allowed. Wisely, bringing a dog was not a precondition for the weekend. Barley, Nala and Pebbles were well behaved pooches of totally different breeds, which added to the diversity of an already very mixed gathering. Without exception, everyone appreciated the much longed for chance to meet people face to face. For many it was a highly emotional experience. For me, it was a joy to engage with old friends and to make new ones. In addition, I was thrilled to make the acquaintance of Evan and Bruce…two cute alpacas and their friends, two adorable pygmy goats yet to be named.

Pygmy goats at Shallowford

Sticking with the theme of HIV…I have got through the first stage of moving from regimens that have raised concerns about elevated lipids and possible impairment to my liver and kidney functions. Switching ARV cocktails in the middle of a pandemic might seem crazy… with normal consultations replaced by telephone appointments, and medication being delivered by courier. But I never…well hardly ever…back down from a challenge. The latest blood test results didn’t show a huge change, much to my disappointment. However, the charming young doctor I spoke to, was much more optimistic and considered them to be fine. Moreover, he not only listened to but also supported my cunning plan to eventually reduce my HIV regimen to just two drugs. He said he would have to run my suggestions past the team, which didn’t sound promising. Imagine my surprise when, a week later, I got a call from the new home supplier of medication. Well, to be truthful, it was a bit embarrassing because I’d forgotten their name and thought the call was a scam. Well what would you do if someone rang unexpectedly checking your name and asking ‘can I have your date of birth’? You’d say ‘No’…just like me. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to clear up the misunderstanding and to agree a delivery date for the drugs that mark the next stage towards my ultimate two drug goal. They arrived on Friday….but I still have a month’s supply of the previous regimen to get through. This is, clearly, an ongoing saga that will run for sometime.

Two boxes of the latest HIV regimen from a delivery of 3 months supply

Considering I was classified as ‘extremely vulnerable’, told to self-isolate and shield myself…I am delighted that over the past year I have been able to keep in regular contact with members of the LGBT older people’s group, Ages & Stages Theatre Company, Inky Cloak Digital Drama Group and many others. All communication has been online, of course, until restrictions were eased. It has been a joy to be able to play the organ again to a live congregation in church and to meet up for a picnic with the OLGBT group in Hanley Park. Walking through Keele woods, hearing birds singing, watching squirrels scampering aroundand seeing a multitude of bluebells was a wonderfully, uplifting life affirming experience.

Bluebells in Keele Woods

I can’t finish this post without mentioning my latest media interview. Simon, a freelance presenter, asked me to take part in the debut of a new late night show on BBC Radio Manchester. I was to be their ‘remarkable, special guest’ – I guess because of my first hand experience of living through the AIDS pandemic depicted in Russell T Davies’ fabulous TV series ‘IT’S A SIN’. Simon assured me that although it was a late show, the interview would be pre-recorded at 6.15 pm. Fine! This was subsequently put back to 9.15. OK-ish!

When the time arrived for the interview I was almost lost for words. Anna Jameson, the presenter of the new show, had gone out socialising the day the Government rules were relaxed. On this, the morning of her first show, Anna received an NHS text message informing her that she had been in contact with someone with COVID and must self-isolate immediately. With no time to get a portable studio set up in her home, Radio Manchester turned to another of their regular presenters who was still working from home. So I ended up doing an interview with Connor Phillips in Belfast. Despite all the obstacles, the interview seemed to go well. Needless to say, Connor didn’t use all of it…but that’s what happens when it’s not a live broadcast.

Bruce – one of the friendly alpacas at Shallowford

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