by Nelson Vergel
from Volume 2, Issue No. 1
• Nelson answers questions at TheBody.com
• Outsmart interview and article about Nelson.
• City of Houston's Nelson Vergel Day proclamation, 9/13/01.
remember when I was eight years old and I asked my mother what cancer was. She
gave me the best explanation she could find without alarming me. I also remember
having said: "If I ever get cancer when I am older, I am going to live life
to the fullest, travel, and do something big before I die!" I don't know why
I still remember that. Maybe, it was self-prophesy. Later in life, I ended up
not getting cancer, instead I found out I was HIV-positive in 1987, when I was
28. I'd returned home to Venezuela after a visit to the U.S. when I developed
the worst flu I could remember, that lasted for a full month. Finding out it was
caused by HIV left me grieving for days. I decided that if I was going to die,
I would explore all possibilities on how to stay healthy.
I was extremely hungry for medical information. I subscribed to ten of the
best AIDS newsletters in the country to keep myself updated. I was still working
full time as a chemical engineer back then, but I knew from several research
studies on psychoimmunology that those with a life purpose tend to live longer.
I knew being a chemical engineer was not what I wanted on my obituary, so I
started an earnest search for my real life purpose, something that would fill
me with passion.
As time went by, I became more and more symptomatic. Diarrhea, anxiety attacks,
thrush, skin problems and other ailments became common struggles for me. I knew
that I could not continue just doing what my doctors said, that I had to go
beyond that if I wanted to stay alive. I enrolled in a study of AZT, but found
out that I was on a placebo (sugar pill), since my T-cells kept dropping. I
was also losing weight and energy. This is when I was transferred to Los Angeles
from Houston (1990).
I knew that there were more possibilities to learn more about alternative
therapies in Los Angeles. I was excited and scared at the same time since I
knew no one there. Because of the tremendous variety in LA, I began to experiment
with any therapy that seemed logical. I started to do megadoses of vitamins
and supplements, and started to watch my diet for food allergies that would
hurt my immune system. My health started improving, however, my weight was still
decreasing (I used to weigh 165 lbs. and I was down to 148 lbs. then). As I
was starting to become more "eclectic" about my health care, I become a person
who used the best the pharmaceutical world and the holistic world had to offer.
Many of my friends who were HIV+ were against using anti-virals, since they
thought their use wasn't worth the side effects. I was fortunate to use them
without any problems. I also realized that this virus is a very smart one. Switching
therapies every 6 months or so would probably prevent a lot of the problems
associated with viral resistance (mutations) and side effects due to long term
use of anti-virals.
One day, one of my friends in L.A. called me to say that they had gone to
a seminar about the use of anabolic steroids for AIDS. That was summer of 1992.
I remember saying. "Steroids are supposed to be bad for you!" I remember
all I had read about the abuse and misuse of anabolic steroids, about "roid
rage" and about how you could get cancer and liver problems, etc. My friends
in L.A. insisted that the seminar speaker sounded like he knew what he was saying,
and that this was probably a good option to reverse my weight loss and improve
my quality of life. I was very skeptical, but in the back of my mind a little
ray of hope started to shine through.
We decided that we were going to do it. We tried finding a doctor who would
prescribe them, but couldn't find one (months later we found out that Dr. Walter
Jekot and Dr. Barry Chadsey in L.A. were already giving anabolic steroids to
their patients). My friends began inquiring about dealers who could bring anabolics
from Mexico. I also asked my family in Venezuela to get me some testosterone
cypionate and Deca Durabolin (they are over the counter items there!!).
I was very worried about the fact that we were doing something potentially
risky without any guidance, but without a doctor to help we had to do it ourselves.
We bought every bodybuilding magazine possible. They all criticized the use
of anabolics and "pushed" their supplements as steroid replacements. We came
across one that had an ad for Bill Phillips' "Anabolic Reference Guide". I ordered
it and also received a subscription to the radical bodybuilding magazine Muscle
It took me a few days to devour Bill Phillips' book. I found it extremely
helpful. However, I was still worried that there was nothing there about the
potential benefits or risks of anabolic steroid use on the immune system. I
remember talking to my friends about trying to find a person who would know
more about that matter. Hopefully, it would be a person who was HIV+ and maybe
a researcher or doctor.
My first issue of Muscle Media 2000 arrived. I read it hungrily. To my surprise
and delight, there was an article there written by an HIV+ doctor named "Dr.
X"! This doctor had gotten out of his "death bed" and regained 40 pounds and
his health back by using anabolic steroids! I called my friends in L.A. and
told them that we had to get through to this Dr. X guy. My friend Preston spent
the next two days networking on the phone. He called me back with the good news
- he had found Dr. X's phone number. I did not hesitate to call him. He returned
my call and we talked for an hour. His real name was Michael Dullnig, M.D. He
was a psychiatrist on disability. What a delightful, smart, passionate man!
I became his number one fan. We would talk for hours every week to share our
experiences. He was writing a book about his program. I told him I was looking
for a "life purpose" and that I was willing to volunteer some time to help him
in any way to spread this information. Meanwhile, I was gaining good lean body
mass - I put on 35 pounds during the next year! My immune response also improved
- my CD8 cells, which may be one of the most important barometers for longevity
for PWA's, went from 900 to 2500 cells/mm3, and my symptoms disappeared! I never
felt or looked better in my entire life, even when I was HIV-negative!!
I was fortunate to have started the program while my T-cells were still over
200 cells/mm3. Dr. Dullnig started the anabolic steroids when his T-cell count
had already dropped to 10 cells /mm3 (normal range seems to be 1000-1500 cells/mm3).
Even though he was able to live another good full year with his new quality
of life, he eventually developed CMV retinitis ( a viral infection that attacks
the retina and makes people lose their sight). He called me to say that he could
not stand the thought of going blind, and that he would rather die than go through
the chemotherapy required to treat that infection. He called me weeks later
to say that he had drawn the line and that he was going to end his life the
day after (June 1, 1994). I was totally shocked. He said that he was going to
accept my offer to help him finish the book and spread this valuable information.
He hung up and I spent hours crying in shock. A week later I got 650 pounds
of research material via Federal Express that Michael had sent me. I knew my
life was never going to be the same after that.
I started to get his fan mail - dozens of letters from all over the world
from people who desperately needed help. I realized how truly important the
work ahead was. I was still working for Shell Oil, but I couldn't concentrate
on my work after that. It took me four months to digest all the information
Michael had sent me. Michael also made me promise that I would not wait for
the book to be published to spread the information. I decided to create my own
agency in Houston called PoWeR - Program
for Wellness Restoration. I sold my house. I came out at work as an HIV+ man
and told everyone about my new life-purpose. My boss was extremely supportive
and told me to do whatever it takes to "find myself". I finally went on permanent
disability September, 1994 to be able to devote myself entirely to my new project.
I created a workshop format with over a hundred slides and invited a few experts
to join me. One by one they all came to me effortlessly. Dr. Mauro DiPasquale,
a world expert on anabolics and sports medicine was the first to join my efforts.
Dr. Luke Bucci, author of several books on micronutrients in sports and recovery
was soon to follow. Dr. Arlette Pharo, an expert on nutritional assessment techniques
also joined us. Dr. Lark Lands, one of the top nutritionists who specializes
in HIV disease has also been a great supporter. Then God sent me another Michael
to help me in this mission. Michael Mooney, a nutritional expert in Los Angeles
who was also independently researching this field, called me after Dr. DiPasquale
gave him my phone number. Michael turned out to be a passionate, knowledgeable,
and truly concerned individual who is committed to increasing research in this
area and to sharing this information with others. He joined me in my travels
around the country, and in our efforts to share the information that we think
is so important we've collaborated on a 200 page book and several other publications.
Without him, my efforts would not be half as effective.
June, 1999 Update
At this time we have had enough impact on HIV reseach and the HIV medical community
that over 200 physicians are now employing treatment programs that include some
or all of the comprehensive program we have created, so thousands of HIV-positive
people have benefited. Dozens of AIDS agencies in the U.S. and in Canada and
Latin America have used our services as seminar speakers; we have collectively
given over 250 seminars. I have designed two multi-factorial research protocols
to test our program on males and females while using proper nutrition and resistance
weight training. Michael and I have written the book, Built To Survive (It is
finally at the printers right now for release within two months.)
We also presented our protocol at the XI International AIDS Conference in Vancouver
in July of 1996 and at the II International Conference on Nutrition and HIV
in Cannes, France (April 97). We have been quoted or had articles in AIDS Treatment
News, Sports Illustrated, POZ, European AIDS Treatment News, and Positively
Aware, and interviewed on several radio programs. Michael has published some
of our information in a regular column that he had for two years in the bodybuilding
magazine Muscle Media 2000. In July of 1998 we opened a one-of-a-kind "one-stop"
Wellness Center in Houston with another agency (Body Positive) to provide free
or subsidized supervised weight training, nutritional counseling, body composition
analysis, massage therapy, and other services to those HIV+ individuals with
limited income. We have an advisory board with very distinguished doctors and
researchers who are experts in clinical applications and research in wasting
and nutritional medicine. I served for two years on the Metabolic Disorders
Committee at the AIDS Clinical Trails Group (ACTG) in Washington, the largest
HIV/AIDS research organization in the world. We also co-sponsored the first
International Conference on AIDS Wasting in Ft. Lauderdale (Nov. 1997). It amazes
me how much the two of us have been able to do with very little funding!
We hope that as time goes by more and more people will realize how important
this work is, especially now, in the era of the new protease inhibitors, when
people are living longer and want to take better care of themselves. Wasting
is not a thing of the past. Recent data show that over 50% of patients are failing
protease inhibitors and many are still losing lean body mass.
We have never charged for our work and our seminars are free to the community.
No matter what, I feel that I can honestly say that we will never give up. With
communications from numerous HIV+ people thanking us for helping them get their
lives back, we both find this to be the most rewarding experience of our lives.
I wish that everyone who has benefited from this work could return something
to the world by helping to spread our message to others who need it.
The information that you will find on our web sites, and in our printed materials
is a great avenue for us to share with you what we've found in our search for
more effective and healthy ways to enhance lean body mass (LBM), decrease lipodystrophy,
improve overall quality of life and productivity in this critical illness. There's
a lot that I want to share with you about the wealth of information that we
continue to gather on the subject of nutrition, supplementation, anabolics hormones,
Peace and Good Health!
Email address: email@example.com