Relay Vol. 1, No. 3 Summer 2005
I was infected with HIV in 1984. In 1985, I was told I had six months to live but I chose not to except that. Instead,
I empowered myself to do all I could to fight the virus. Thanks to my healthcare team and other people living with HIV, I learned ways
to stay healthy, to take responsibility for my life and I avoided medication for over a dozen years.
It wasn't that I didn't get sick or need medical attention, I certainly did! There were countless doctor's appointments,
blood tests at the hospital and more times than I can count trying to fix the complications that appeared.
After some 13 years of living with HIV, I did become seriously ill. In July 1998, I developed PCP (pneumocsytis carinii
pneumonia). My health deteriorated and it looked as though I might die. On World AIDS day in 1998, I started my first highly active
antiretroviral therapy (HARRT). After just four weeks on medication, my CD4 count of 40 went up 200 points, the PCP was eradicated
and my viral laod of several million particles went down to thousands. With a reduced viral load, I could once again absorb
nutrients. I regained the weight I had lost and started to strenghten my body through nutrition, exercise and complementary therapies.
Without HARRT there would be far more suffering and AIDS-related deaths. Some people don't tolerate these medications, as sometimes they can be toxic. But this is true of the treatments for many illnesses as well. Myself and countless others have gone on to
enjoy life, thanks to HIV/AIDS medications.
After two years, my HARRT combination began to fail. A genome test showed I was resisteant to all the HIV medications
available, (even though I'd only ever taken AZT for nine months, years earlier, and my current drug treatment). In 2000, I enrolled
in a drug study for a new protease inhibitor, lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra). Within the first four weeks of my new treatment (3TC + d4T + Kaletra), my
CD4 count climbed to 340 and my viral load was undetectable (less than 50 particles). It's now 2005, I'm still taking the same medications,
I have a CD4 count of 790 and the virus is still undetectable.
"Reproduced with permission - Relay Magazine"