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Declining Treatments

Jan 16, 1998


I am HIV+ for about 10 years. I am basically asymptomatic with few problems. I have chosen to decline the available drugs. I have found them to be experimental with too many possible side effects (for me). My last CD4 count was 200 about 2 years ago. The doctors have stopped ordering the test....they seem to be very upset with my decision calling me stupid and accusing me of giving their school of medicine a bad name. I DO understand that some of them are concerned with my well-being but they seem to be looking at this issue as a right or wrong one. What about freedom of choice? I really don't want to get caught up in these treatment protocols. I worry about becoming too dependent on doctors, pharmaceutical compainies, insurance companies, and possibly even the government. One of the Body doctors called me paranoid....among other things. Whatever my reasons, shouldn't my decision be respected as just that? Am I the only HIV+ person that says no to these drugs? It's not that I want to commit suicide....or "end it all" quickly. I just want some control over my body. I've lost enough of it already.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I really applaud you for taking charge of your health care. You are by no means the only person with HIV who has chosen not to utilize western medicine and these new treatments.Several of my patients are feeling fine refusing to take any antiretroviral medications which in the past have made them sick from the side effects, though their lab results show high levels of viral activity. One of my patients does not have high viral loads and he has never taken any anitretroviral drugs. The decison of whether or not to take any drug has to be made in partnership between the patient and his or her physician. Are you able to shop around for other doctors who might support you in your desires for a more holistic approach to HIV care? Perhaps the teaching hospital your doctors are at has its own department of "nontraditional medicine." One way to begin to try and locate such a professional is to ask other PWAs. Remember it is your body, your disease, and your right to choose. Do not be bullied.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

All this, and now I have to live?
why do I feel this way?

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