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Jan 4, 2009

Hi Dr. Young,

In your reply to the message entitled "SO SO SO SAD" (Jan. 3, 2009), you invited readers to write in with their experiences. So I'm doing just that. I am HIV negative, but my fiancée is positive. She lives in Thailand, although I live in the U.S. I have written a couple of times in the past with information about local (Bangkok) HIV medical providers whom I know personally, and who I suggested that your readers might want to contact for superior quality care, based on my experience.

I strongly agree with what you wrote in reply to this reader. Let me give you a short description of my fiancée's status and history: diagnosed in July 2007, VL 18,300, CD4 about 226. She immediately went on treatment (known locally as GPO-Vir30; basically d4T, 3TC, and nevirapine). Within two months her VL was undetectable, and CD4 was ~430. By Christmas 2007 she was still undetectable, and CD4 was ~615. She continues to be undetectable; her absolute CD4 and CD4% continue to increase. She now takes tenofovir, 3TC, and generic efavirenz (called Stocrin locally). These are all available to her locally.

The improvement in her quality of life has been dramatic. I cannot overstate this. Before diagnosis and the start of treatment she was frequently sick and had various health complaints. Now she is as strong as, well, an ox (pardon the metaphor). She rarely gets sick. She looks better and is healthier than any of her coworkers. She exercises 5x per week. Her mood is good. She often works about 60 hours per week, with no problem. She feels that her life has been saved, literally. This is not how a sick person feels. This is the life of a healthy person. She has a few side effects occasionally, but they aren't too severe, and they are a whole lot better than being sick all the time.

She takes a strong multivitamin as well, the K-Pax formula created and marketed by Dr. Jon Kaiser. It's admittedly expensive, but I want her to have every advantage in fighting the condition, so I send it to her from the U.S. As you know, there is SOME evidence that this formula can help SOME people with HIV, but there is only one study of this product that I know of and it was a small study (maybe ~40 participants, if I recall correctly).

So is HIV real? Undeniably, in my opinion. Do meds help people? This is beyond argument to me. Again: before diagnosis and treatment by fiancée was often sick and generally weak. Now she is healthier than almost anybody I know. If readers want more scientific evidence of this fact than my personal experience, they should look at the VERY DRAMATIC improvements overall mortality and morbidity among people receiving treatment in the years since HAART was introduced. Virtually every doctor in the world accepts these data as irrefutable, and many doctors believe, as you apparently do, that this type of therapy creates at least the possibility of a normal length of life IF the patient takes the meds faithfully and lives a healthy lifestyle generally. How much of my fiancée's improvement was due to treatment and how much was because of the vitamins? We dont know, and personally I don't care. We are fortunate to have access to both, and she plans to continue taking both.

So that's my experience. Not quite first-hand, I will admit, but a very real experience nonetheless. I have heard or read some version of this same story over and over again, as I know you have too. I hope your readers who may be feeling discouraged, depressed, or doubtful about HIV will read this and believe that as long as they have access to treatment, life can get better for them. Oh, and HIV is real. If untreated, it kills.

Response from Dr. Young

Thank you so much for your post. Others who read this, please share your experiences with our readers.

Please wish your fiancee the best of health for me.

Be well, BY

Atripla response.

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