Lillibeth Gonzalez, New York City; Diagnosed in 1992
Seek help in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Before starting HIV treatment, my T cells were 868 and I was in great shape, but I thought I was going to die so I started to hang out and drink, and I didn't keep a good health regimen. That was the most ignorant decision I ever made. Due to that choice, my T cells went down to zero. I got TB, neuropathy, wasting syndrome, and PCP [pneumocystis pneumonia] four times. I was in denial.
Seek a support system. Attend groups, listen to what others are saying about their experiences, ask for suggestions, ask questions, be very curious about the different types of medications and their side effects. Ask your doctor to help you find the medication that will work with your lifestyle (for example, if you're active and always on the go, get a medication that's taken once daily). Take into consideration what will work for you.
Reevaluate your priorities: What is important to you? Living a healthy life? Hiding and living in denial for the rest of your life? Do you want to be happy or do you just want to make others happy? It's all about you; you are living with a virus that can be easily controlled but you need to make the correct choices; seek help in making these choices.
AIDS is not a disease; it's an adjustable lifestyle that can work for you if you make it work.
Read Lillibeth's story of starting HIV meds.