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I Am Here, 21 Years Later, Because of These Medications

April 10, 2013

Treatment Cascade: A Spotlight Series

Treatment Cascade: A Spotlight Series

February 1996, four years after being given my HIV diagnosis, I found myself lying in a hospital bed and hearing that I now had AIDS. My CD4 count was 131. I needed to add more medication. When I was initially diagnosed in 1992, I had a CD4 count of 896 and my first doctor put me on AZT (Retrovir, zidovudine) monotherapy. After a friend found an infectious disease specialist, I was switched to Zerit (stavudine, d4T) and Epivir (3TC, lamivudine).

Now lying in the hospital, my doctor came in and said there was this new drug available called Crixivan (indinavir) and he strongly recommended that I add this to my current regime. My viral load was 159,000 and these new meds had shown that they could reduce the virus in my system, therefore prolonging my life. So of course I said yes. By August, my viral load was undetectable, less than 200, and my CD4 count was finally up over 200.

Shannon R. Southall

Shannon R. Southall

My medication journey since the beginning has been varied and tough and full of side effects, but I held the attitude that without them I would not be here. I have been determined to fight this since the beginning.

After years of Crixivan and drinking lots of water and it interfering with my quality of life, I asked my doctor if we could switch to a twice-a-day regimen. I tried several regimens that were all successful in keeping my HIV in check; I just couldn't handle the side effects. Finally, six years ago, I found the regimen that works. My HIV is undetectable, less than 20, and my CD4 count is over 1,000.

A few years ago I started to wonder about switching or stopping meds for a while. Then I met the man who would become my husband. He is HIV negative and I know that keeping my viral load down is crucial to maintaining a healthy sex life and reducing the risk of transmission to him. The side effects are manageable and I am here, 21 years later, because of these medications. It was the smartest decision I've made.

Shannon Southall is the executive director and medical care manager at Rocky Mountain CARES, an HIV/AIDS service organization in Denver, Colo. She's also an expert in TheBody.com's "Ask the Experts" Forum on Safe Sex and HIV Prevention.

Read other articles in this spotlight series.



This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 
See Also
6 Reasons Why People Skip Their HIV Meds
Word on the Street: Advice on Adhering to HIV Treatment
More Personal Accounts of Staying Adherent to HIV/AIDS Medications

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Shirley H. (Leesburg, FL) Wed., May. 22, 2013 at 4:01 am EDT
I enjoyed shannon southall story. where i live not much for me in terms of support. so this is my way to stay connected. Am 56 years old - single mom - hiv poz - undetectable since 2007. only took Atripla...pretty lucky
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Comment by: Luna (San Francisco, CA) Sun., Apr. 28, 2013 at 9:42 am EDT
Yay, I have hope now that Cd 4 count will raise, I'm newly diagnosed and was diagnosed late (I was one of those cases where they sent me to many specialist but NONE of them suspected I would have HIV, hey neither did I) they put me on anti-viral's and they saved my life. I think your an inspiration to women out there, you give me hope. It's nice to know. Thank you for sharing your story.
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Comment by: Luna (San Francisco) Sun., Apr. 28, 2013 at 9:40 am EDT
Yay, I have hope now that Cd 4 count will raise, I'm newly diagnosed and was diagnosed late (I was one of those cases where they sent me to many specialist but NONE of them suspected I would have HIV, hey neither did I) they immediately put me on anti-viral's and they saved my life. I think your an inspiration to women out there, you give me hope. It's nice to know. Thank you for sharing your story.
Reply to this comment


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