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Is living with HIV worth it?

Mar 12, 2012

I am in my early 60's and have been poz and on meds for 18 years. While my labs are good, I have been experiencing a myriad of side effects that are making me question whether I want to live like this anymore. I have moderate to severe cognitive impairment, neuropathy in my fingers, severe shoulder arthritis, truncal lipodystrophy and sexual dysfunction. I'm sure age may contribute to some of these issues but I believe HIV and long term medication use has wracked havoc on my body. I have seen various doctors and take Oxycontin for pain and Viagra for sexual dysfunction, both of which work marginally. I am not able to do and enjoy the activities I used to. I'm really weighing the value of just being alive over living. Any input would be appreciated.

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thank you for writing. I understand the discouragement and even frustration of living with various side effects that do indeed affect one's quality of life. As you correctly note, an aging HIV-positive population is going to experience even more of these situations. I'm glad your baseline labs are good and, having lived with HIV for 18 years, you are obviously a survivor. I have seen many individuals with similar lists of conditions, some of whom display quite remarkable emotional resilience. Weariness and even depression are very common -- by some estimates nearly 50% of persons living with HIV meet criteria for a depressive mood disorder. Pain medications like Oxycontin can also contribute to a depressed mood. I would encourage you to determine if depression is a factor in your questioning the future. Your physician can provide a screening or refer you to a behavioral health provider. You may find that addressing a mood concern and stepping up your support system will really help.

Good luck to you and thanks for writing,


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