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HIV, Hepatitis C and You

A Guide for Coinfected People

December 2011

Up Close & Personal: Kevin Maloney

Age: 33
From: Upstate New York
Diagnosed With HIV: 2010
Diagnosed With Hep C: 2010
HIV Viral Load: undetectable
HCV Viral Load: undetectable
CD4 Count: 384

"Although I did have a substance abuse issue, I never put a needle in my arm," says Kevin Maloney. Though it's not the most common mode of hep C transmission, Kevin likely came into contact with hep C in the same way he did HIV: through unprotected sex. He was diagnosed with both viruses in 2010, not long after he'd been infected.

Kevin's diagnoses were a much-needed wake-up call, and he immediately sought treatment for his drug addiction as well as the viruses. He spent time at an addiction recovery center and began attending Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings. He also started taking HIV meds. At the time his CD4 count was 285; once it reached 500, Kevin began taking Pegasys and ribavirin for hep C.

He'd been told he had hep C genotype 1A, which is considered the most difficult strain of the virus to treat. However, because Kevin was diagnosed within six months of infection, his doctor felt comfortable prescribing 24 weeks of hep C treatment instead of the usual 48-week course. He was also optimistic that Kevin's treatment would work.

Ribavirin was six pills per day; Pegasys was a shot in the stomach Kevin gave himself weekly. "The doctor did the first shot, and after that I was on my own," Kevin recalls. He adds that the shot didn't hurt once he got the hang of it. His 7 million-copy hep C viral load dropped to undetectable by week 5 and stayed there -- but his most challenging side effects didn't start until after three months on treatment.

By the end of 24 weeks he'd lost 25 pounds and dealt with low energy and all-over body aches. But he found the psychological side effects hardest to deal with: "Increased anxiety, decreased concentration, racing thoughts, making rash decisions, with sleeplessness and decreased appetite mixed in," he remembers. In part because of these effects, Kevin believes it's a good idea to start talking to a therapist -- and even considering meds for depression or anxiety -- before starting treatment. Many doctors treating hep C recommend the same.

Six months after he completed hep C treatment, Kevin's doctor declared him cured. "I could never have completed treatment if it wasn't for the constant communication between my doctor and me," he stresses. "He stayed on top of my health, as did I."

Nowadays, Kevin gives back to his community by speaking about his treatment experiences and writing about them in an online blog. "Seek medical help as soon as possible," Kevin advises those newly diagnosed with HIV and hepatitis C. "Educate yourself. Find a talk therapist. Be patient with yourself and with the process. Ask questions. Reach out to a friend when you're in need. Don't try to do this all on your own."

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Copyright © 2011 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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