August 17, 2011
Maria T. Mejia
I've been HIV positive for 20 years, 10 of them without any HIV meds; and for the last 10 years I have been on HIV medication. If I could go back 20 years, I wouldn't change a thing. I really believe (and this is only my opinion) that not taking the high dosages of AZT (Retrovir, zidovudine) that were offered 20 years ago saved my life.
Not everyone should wait this long to get on meds. All bodies are different. My T-cell count went down to a dangerous 39; that is when I said "It is time." I always follow my heart and gut instincts.
I was on Trizivir (AZT/3TC/abacavir) for the past 10 years. Recently I had another gut instinct: I said "Enough of Trizivir." The reason for this is because of the AZT in it, conversations with friends and of course my HIV specialist! Although my viral load was undetectable, I really felt it was time for a change ... and so I did.
I was put on Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC), which was what I'd wanted. I made the best decision for me. Less than a month and half later my T cells are now 399 -- they have never been so high! And my CD4 percentage went from 22 percent to 27 percent, which is awesome! I am still undetectable and very blessed.
So the one piece of advice I would give myself would've been the same -- I wouldn't change a thing. Now for those newly diagnosed: Things are different now! You have more options. You shouldn't wait till your immune system is destroyed like mine was. Take your meds and live a healthy and positive lifestyle. Please find a doctor you can communicate with and listens to you. Be proactive with your illness; and most important; do your research! These are our bodies, and we are in a learning process along with our doctors.
This is the key to living a healthy life with HIV/AIDS: Don't minimize the illness! If you don't take care of yourself and do what you are supposed to do, you can get very ill and even die. All of this is preventable!
Please love yourself and take your Meds when you and your doctor feel it is time for you to start. It will be hard at the beginning; you may feel sick while the body adapts to the medication. This is normal. But after that you will start to feel better, and with the HIV medications your immune system will have help against the virus.
Life is beautiful! And again, keep yourself healthy until the cure comes!