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Giving up

May 23, 2000

I was diagnosed in Dec. 96 - I'm female, now 53 years old. I've had cryptococcal meningitis, no other oi's, responded very well on paper to cocktail, but have been experiencing chronic GI distress - violent vomiting, and bouts of staph, and c.diff that have worn me out. Recently spent 6 weeks in the hospital, off all HIV drugs due to lactic acidosis, another staph infection, and sepsis. I recovered, but am really questioning the quality of life I return to. I'm considering stopping agressive treatment, and permitting only palliative care. My brother tells me to try to find a doctor with special expertise in HIV in women, just to get a final, second opinion. What do you think? I really can't take feeling so bad so much of the time anymore. Please respond. Thanks.

Response from Dr. Pavia

Whew. It sounds like you have been through a very rough time. You have both had one of the nastier OI's and one of the more difficult drug complications. There are times when it is the right time to stop fighting, and times where you just need a break, and to try again, with a very clear eye towards what are acceptable side effects for you.

I can't answer that question for you. Let me suggest a few things though. We can often fashion a regimen that will be well tolerated and that may make all the difference for you. And yes, there are probably differences in the way men and women respond to some drugs, but we have very few studies to answer this (Dr. Squires is one of the leaders at tackling this area). So, it may be worth another try when you are feeling ready. The other thing to think about is whether the prolonged illness and all the things you may have lost have left you depressed. Depression is frequently a complication of long illnesses. It is treatable, and tackling the depression may help you tackle other issues in your life, whether it is planning for more tough therapy, or planning for the last period of your life. Good luck, and hang in there

Andrew T. Pavia, M.D.

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