HARRT Benefits - HIV/AIDS drugs saved my life!
by Bradford McIntyre
I was infected with HIV
in 1984. From the time I was told I had "six months to
live" by an AIDS specialist in 1985, I learned from other people
infected with HIV and included supplements and complementary therapies.
These kept me healthy and were responsible for allowing me to
address health issues, boost my immune system and avoid going
on HIV/AIDS medications for over a dozen years.
It was not that I did not get sick or need medical
attention throughout the years, because I certainly did. There were
countless doctor's appointments, blood tests at the hospital to
keep watch on how my body was reacting to having the virus and more
times than I can count trying to fix whatever complications appeared.
Throughout these years, large numbers of infected individuals went
from a weakened immune system, to no immune system, to one sickness
after another. With the advent of newer and better HIV/AIDS medications
and a much broader understanding of this illness, individuals have
been able to bounce back and have wellness restored with the aid
of combination therapies. Equally, throughout everything, sick or
well, complementary therapies are a mainstay to address: diarrhea,
nausea, neuropathy, irritated skin and rashes, wasting, fatigue,
loss of appetite, immunosuppression and more, when it comes to living
with HIV. We have learned a much broader understanding of this illness!
After approximately 13 years since diagnosis of infection
with HIV, I did become seriously ill. In July of 1998, I developed
pneumocystis-carinii-pneumonia, known as PCP. My health deteriorated
and it looked as though I might die. My only recourse was to try
an HIV/AIDS drug combination to boost my compromised immune system
enough to fight off the pneumonia. That is exactly what happened.
On December 1st, World AIDS DAY, 1998, I started my first ever HIV/AIDS
drug combination treatment. After just four weeks on the medication,
my cd4 count of 40 went up a couple hundred points; eradicated the
PCP and the viral load of several millions viral particles went
down to thousands. With a reduced viral load, I could once again
absorb nutrients. I regained the weight lost and started to strengthen
my body through nutrition, exercise and complementary therapies.
People who knew me were very surprised that I started
HIV/AIDS medications. They knew I was very involved in addressing
HIV infection through alternative and complementary therapies. Although
I was fortunate to have lived 13 years without highly active antiretroviral
therapies (HARRT), I was not opposed to them. I was very successful
addressing my health concerns without them, but I was aware of the
benefits of pharmaceutical treatments and kept myself well informed.
I knew there was a possibility of having to go on them one day.
It was my hope that I could maintain good health without them, or
by the time I needed them that they would be much improved from
the drugs used in earlier years. It worked out for me in the long
run. Without the drug combination therapy, I would not have survived.
They saved my life!
Without the availability of these
drugs, there would be far more suffering and deaths. Some
individuals do not tolerate these medications, as they can be toxic.
This is true of the treatments for many people who live with cancer
and other illness, but you do not see activists denouncing the use
of these life saving drugs. Myself and countless others have gone
on to enjoy life, aided by these medications and it is very important
to recognize the enormous benefits from the treatments available.
After two years, my HIV/AIDS drug combination began
to fail. A genome test showed I was resistant to all the HIV/AIDS
medications, even though my only usage consisted of AZT for 9 months
(years earlier) and the current drug treatment. In 2000, with resistance
to all existing HIV/AIDS medications, I enrolled in a drug study
for a new protease inhibitor, Kaletra. Within the first four weeks
on the drug my cd4 count climbed to 340 and my viral load was undetectable
(less than 50 particles). In 2001, Kaletra was approved for use.
Here it is 2004, and I am still taking Kaletra and I have a cd4
count of 490 and the virus is undetectable.
I recognize the significant accomplishments of science,
medicine and the pharmaceutical companies and commend the work being
done. Many are benefiting and I have seen people who were seriously
ill regain a quality of health due to the HIV/AIDS treatments, myself
included! I have seen people who were at one time in wheelchairs,
recover and return to wellness due to new drug treatments and protease
inhibitors. Weight gain, energy and hope have been restored in what
might otherwise have meant death without these drugs. Initially,
people did not have the treatment options we have today, but they
led the way. Many people died in the process. People offered themselves
to science in the hope of finding a way to stay well, stay alive
and move forward in treatment options. Without individuals engaged
in studies and drug trials, we would not have the success in saving
lives we have today. Many benefit and live longer due to the new
drug treatments and protease inhibitors available. Obviously, we
are moving forward in the development of more effective drug treatments!
copyright © Bradford McIntyre
Originally Published 2004-12-12 at: