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My friend took his life. Please tell me it gets better

Nov 28, 2013

Hello Doc. I'm a straight guy who happened to have lost one of his good friends who was gay. Gay and HIV positive. I didn't let that change out friendship. Being that we literally grew up together. I will try not to draw this out longer then necessary. But I'm torn, angry, sympathetic, and sad. My friend found out he was positive a year and a half ago. After initial disbelief and anger, ( he was one that always had protected sex) he did begin treatment. Myself, and two other friends on ours made sure he tool his daily pill. In a caring loving way of course. He reached undetectable in 5.5 months. We celebrated. We knew this as good news as it reflected that he cold remain a healthy individual. However there were days when he spoke of such things such as "what's the point? they will never have a cure for us!" Or "I'll eventually end up with cancer from taking complera." I mean we of course let him rant. But deep down I knew he was hurting and frustrated. I even went as far as trying to tell him that researches and doctors are trying their very best and it'll be here. Don't you want to be here when they do have a cure? You can't do that if you don't take your medicine and try to remain positive that it will one day be here in your lifetime. Well....with his ever changing moods. Upbeat and like his old self versus the sad and down trotten mood that would sometimes change him from the sweet caring guy to the hopeless lonely guy we all knew was still healthy and had very chance to actually be here for when a cure comes to surface. Took his life. He shot himself in the head. A tragedy that didn't have to be. Doc was I wrong for telling him such? Aren't the scientist or is it research doctors? That are close to finding one or definitely closer than ever? I just wish he didn't do it. He kept reiterating he was now a statistic.

Response from Dr. Young

Hello and thank you for posting.

I'm so very sorry to learn about your friend and loss.... and sorry to hear that he felt he was only a statistic.

Serious mental health problems are unfortunately common among many living with HIV. Clearly, the many issues related to chronic illness, stigma, discrimination and isolation don't help.

But things can and do get better. HIV medications today are leagues different than they were in the first days of treatment and the long-term prognosis for life and health can be excellent. BTW, as far as I know, there's no association between current HIV medications and increased cancer risk. Research is paving the way to better medications and yes, even cure. Cure may still take years, but today, HIV can be managed like a chronic medical condition, like hypertension or diabetes.

Sadly though, there's no pill to treat stigma or discrimination. Yet, identifying serious mental illness and linking those in need to critically important care is something that needs improvement.

Through this, it's clear to me that you did nothing wrong by supporting him and his health. Information is the best remedy for health (and stigma). You were a true friend.

My deepest and most sincere condolences, BY



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