Anti-apartheid activist, lawyer, and political prisoner released Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa in 1994, abolishing political exile for approximately twenty thousand South Africans.
David Patient was among the thousands who could now return home. He had been living in the U.S. since age eighteen, after being banished from South Africa for demonstrating his anti-apartheid sentiments.
The end of the Apartheid regime would also lift South Africa’s brutally enforced segregation laws, and inspire hope for equality, democracy, and empowerment within indigenous tribes. Yet, in addition to new hope, something else had become prevalent in South Africa since Patient was exiled: HIV/AIDS.
This medical challenge was something Patient knew well. For more than a decade, he had been living with HIV – in a time when most people with this diagnosis were dying with HIV, rapidly.
In more ways than one, Patient was living against the odds. Less than 7% of people with HIV/AIDS in the 80s and 90s had ever experienced a rebound after their immune systems initially crashed. Patient had experienced, and sustained, a rebound even before effective pharmaceutical therapies had been manufactured.
All but two people had died from the very first trial of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for HIV/AIDS. Patient was one of the two survivors from that trial.
Patient had been depressed and suicidal for much of his life. Yet, after being told he had six months to live in 1983, he had an awakening which changed the trajectory of his life. Patient would not only live against the odds, but he would live with empowerment, and he would turn his own empowerment into dedicated social service.
...After being told he had six months to live in 1983, he had an awakening which changed the trajectory of his life.
In 1994, Patient was thirty-three years old, had kicked an illicit drug habit - cold turkey, had outlived his early medical prognosis by ten years, had sat bedside as many of his friends with HIV/AIDS took their last breaths, had been recognized by former President Bill Clinton for exemplary public service in the establishment of Florida’s first AIDS agency, and was still skillfully using nutrition and mind-body-science to sustain his own life and the lives of others.
Now, it was time to return to South Africa, the motherland. There, Patient would meet the people with HIV/AIDS who had been the recipients of his shipments of effective ARVs from San Francisco.
Patient was determined to spread the good news: an effective pharmaceutical regimen, combined with nutrition, mind-body-science, and sanitation could empower sick people to live longer, and with a better quality of life. This approach could also reduce the contraction and transmission of disease. To fulfill this mission, Patient began giving talks to HIV/AIDS patients in South African clinics.
This led to Patient meeting Neil Orr, a young researcher completing an advanced degree in psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI, a scientific area of study which quantifies the relationship between an individual’s psyche, neural activity, and immune health).
Patient and Orr exchanged stories about PNI research and the specific lifestyle choices Patient was making to sustain his life. They discovered a groundbreaking parallel: Patient, and other persons who were successfully living with HIV/AIDS, had unknowingly been following research-based PNI suggestions for dealing with viral infections.
Patient had worked with numerous research networks since his diagnosis, and he put Orr in contact with other long-term AIDS survivors. An eager, detail oriented Orr traveled to the U.S. to conduct interviews with those survivors, a process which lasted about one year. Upon completion of the interviews, Orr produced the first PNI therapy protocol.
A powerful collaboration between David Patient and Neil Orr was budding. The duo returned to South Africa to present the PNI therapy protocol to a conference of people living with AIDS in Cape Town.
This marked the beginning of the duo’s mission to empower individuals by increasing their awareness of available choices.
To be continued…
Read the next story in this series here...