Hello friends from our GLBTQ Latin@ Community! I want to let you know about HIV medication and my personal experience with adherence.
Since the time of my diagnosis in 1993, I began HIV antiretroviral treatment medication. During those years there were not many choices other than the experiments with AZT. This medication was given to anyone that had being diagnosed HIV positive. I recall not having great success with that medication because it made me feel physically ill. There were rumors that other medications were in trial which could have potential for treatment, but in the meantime, I was struggling with the only option of medication that was available at the time.
Researchers started working on HIV medication treatment options for people in 1989, but it was not until 1994 that it was announced that a group of medications called protease inhibitors were going to be available for HIV patients to start treatment. HIV protease inhibitors are used in the treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS and were considered the first breakthrough in over a decade of AIDS research. HIV protease inhibitors can lower the viral load carried in patients and as result increase CD4 counts. That was wonderful news and it brought hope for many of us. These big news were good for us who were living with HIV/AIDS but unfortunately it gave the general public the misconception that these medications were a sort of a cure, because news reports were covering cases of people that went from looking sick and almost dying to have again energy and be alive; because of these medications many people returned back to work or school. Along with this complaisance, there was another factor that generated the false sense of being safe about being infected and even some people may have thought that “I don’t have to worry because there is a cure for those living with HIV”. As a result of this way of thinking many people continued to engage in high risk practices.
Although protease inhibitors are a good treatment for HIV infection, being under this medication regimen is not a walk in the park or easy to take. Medications give side effects, if a person takes these medications for a long term it gives people side effects and complications such as high levels of cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, neuropathy, lipodystrophy, and the list goes on and on. As consequence, us who are under HIV antiretroviral treatment have to adhere to the medication combination treatment, but we also have to take several other medications to contrast the side effects and to treat some of the complications that we get due to long term treatment with the HIV medications.
Many times I wake up in the morning and look at my pills kit and I just don’t feel like take the medications they even give me nausea thinking about what I have to take and how many pills. I think of the time I had been under these medications and combinations which is about 7 years. The medications have been doing what they are supposed to do…keeping my viral load to undetectable levels and my T-cells count better than how I had them 15 years ago. I get sick of thinking on the fact that in order to keep myself healthy and keep the virus at bay I need to stay under treatment! Sometimes, I don’t feel like take the meds. But every time, I take a moment and think of many of those that never have gotten the chance to have the opportunity of receiving treatment for their HIV infection. I am grateful to have the opportunity to live in a place where I have access to medications and the opportunity to still be alive and healthy. I look at my pills and although I don’t wish to take my meds sometimes, I think of many of my friends who I have lost to AIDS, it is because of them and in their memory I made a promise to myself to make the best efforts in staying adhered to my medications. I say to myself each time I am get in that mood…stop winning…just take it! – At least you got this chance and the chance to live bit longer.