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Managing Side Effects of HIV TreatmentManaging Side Effects of HIV Treatment
           
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Just got diagnosed, scared and confused about treatments
Jan 22, 2005

I am a 24 year old gay male living in San Francisco. I normally am very safe but I'm not perfect and I screwed up a few months back having unprotected sex with someone.

I took an HIV test a month after the encounter and the test was negative. Unfortunately, last week I took another test (it's now been 3 months since the encounter), and it came back positive.

Needless to say I'm still very upset and don't know what to do, but I am trying to sift through all this info about treatment and what not and I am hearing a lot of different things.

I found a doctor specializing in HIV and he is testing my blood for all sorts of levels and what not and to see what drugs my strain of HIV reacts to. He seems good so far. However, after calling around some more, I have found out three things:

1) There are vast differences in opinion between doctors on when to start treatment. How do I figure this out for myself? Is this just a gamble? I am only 24... I really don't want to die in 10 years. Should I start treatment now?

2) Apparently there are new treatments that can help if you were infected within the last 6 months. Is this true? What are these treatments? I figure I've been infected for 3 months, maybe 4.

3) Is HIV really a "chronic" illness vs. a death sentence now? I hear stories of people living "up to 20 years" - that only puts me at 44. Is there a chance of living longer? How will I know this and what questions should I ask my doctor to help me gauge this?

Sorry for such a long post.

- D

Response from Dr. Henry

There is good information on your excellent and tough questions on this website as well as:

www.aidsmeds.com www.tpan.com www.aidsmap.org

There is no strong data that proves that immediate treatment of new infection is truly helpful. The ACTG in the US is running a study looking at treatment +/- cyclosporine for acute infection. There also is no cookbook standard answer for when is the best time to treat. There is a large study (SMART) funded by the NIH (including sites in San Fran) looking at aggressive use of meds or conservative over the long term. The web sites I cite have good sections for the newly diagnosed patient reading up on the terminology is very useful in order to improve your interactions with your HIV specialist. KH



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