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Getting to Undetectable: People Living With HIV Share Their Stories

April 12, 2013


Pastor Andrena Ingram

Pastor Andrena Ingram

Philadelphia, Pa.; Diagnosed in 1989

THAT was another day, I remember with clarity. Waking up and dreading my doctor's appointment, because I knew I was going to get my blood-work results, and because I was about sick and tired of injecting myself. I was tired of Fuzeon (infuvirtide, T-20), I was tired of medication, I was just tired of it all.

I sat down in her office, and she pulled out my chart and looked at the labs, and smiled. I was like ... OK, what is my CD4? And it had been explained to me months before that they were beginning to look at this thing called "the viral load" ... and how that was more important than the CD4 count. She told me what my CD4 count was, which had peaked a bit ... but she was still smiling. And then she said: Guess what Andrena? Your viral load is under 50 copies! She was cheesin'! Grinning from ear to ear! I still didn't understand what that meant, until she stopped grinning long enough to tell me. That it meant that the virus in my body was undetectable …

Even though she explained it to me, I still didn't quite get it, until a few days later ... my mind had to process it. It meant that the Fuzeon was working. It meant that I was NOT gonna die (anytime soon). ....

I was ecstatic!

Read Pastor Ingram's full story of getting to undetectable.

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Ted benra (San diego) Fri., Feb. 20, 2015 at 11:13 pm EST
God bless the world!
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Comment by: Sheila Borton (Ontario,Canada) Thu., Mar. 20, 2014 at 10:55 am EDT
I was diagnosed in 2005. I have been undetectable for over 6 years now.I've been on treatment for over 9 years also.I was down to 230 on my CD 4 count.And my viral load was 1034.To me that's not very high.Every time I go in to get tested it shows I am undetectable.Ever since I have been taking my medication.It shows that my medication is working on me just fine.I hear if we do miss our medications enough times it can build a resistance and not work.I did have problems at first taking my medication.I kept on forgetting my meds.Until I was told what can happen to me if I keep forgetting my meds.So I never forgot again.I take it every time with my meals.And I feel a lot better now,knowing taking my medication is very important to me in my everyday life.
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Comment by: Robert (Missouri) Thu., Mar. 6, 2014 at 4:13 pm EST
HURRAY and HALALLUA ,is what I've got to say,have been POS for twenty years,and though it has been the test of a lifetime to survive the countless challenges and barriers,and all the life's endless learning to survive (with the help of every concievible friend , physician, social workers and the number of programs) ,this NEWS relieve's so much fear and guilt that maybe just maybe,we weren't careful enough with a sex partner is indeed HUGE news for myself and countless others.
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Comment by: ben (uganda) Sun., Oct. 27, 2013 at 7:29 am EDT
I thank God, have had undetectable viral load for now a year,please advice, i really want to get married to lady of same status.. what should i do i dont want to keep advertising my self... Preferably am looking at alady not from uganda
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Comment by: Chas (southern calif) Fri., Aug. 30, 2013 at 12:57 pm EDT
I was diagnosed in 2010 and have been undetectable since 2011. My T Cells are at 1,000. I am married and my wife is not infected with HIV. I also continue to exercise 3 to 5 days a week. I cycle anywhere from 20-100 miles at a time and do high intensity weight training with a cardio component mixed in. I am 60 years old. I eat healthy most of the time and I take Atripla and Juice-Plus. Juice Plus is 17 fruits and vegetables. Dr. Dubois an Infectious disease specialist has all of his patients on this product as well as their HIV medicine. I am as overall fit today as I was when I was in my twenties. I am 5' 9" 175 lbs with a 32 waist. I am only 5 lbs difference from my high school weight. I say this to encourage you to eat well and begin an exercise program that you can do safely yet progresses as you improve.
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Comment by: Evan (Los Angeles) Tue., Jul. 16, 2013 at 10:08 pm EDT
Started meds right after getting C Diff from antibiotics which appeared to only be partially treated. Experience terrible GI tract issues for 8 months after and even though I never missed my med my virl load continued to remain around 200.
At this point I finally got the GI issues resolved but my testosterone was also went down so I started very dose replacement therapy and returned to the gym. One year of hard training later and 20 months after I started meds my testosterone was normal and I was finally undetectable. I believe the GI issues messed with my immune system so severely that the meds were unable to drive down the virus properly and my testosterone in turn also suffered. That said, when I started meds my t-cells went as low as 350 and my percentage was 15 today, now nearly 3 years after starting meds no have I remained undetectable, my t-cells are around 490 but my percentage is 41 (the highest is has been since being dagnosed). I highly recommend weight training though I imagine any good physical regiment would greatly benefit your long term health!
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Comment by: Bradley (Bellingham, WA) Mon., Jun. 17, 2013 at 1:43 am EDT
I just really want to thank Nelson for pointing out to me that I'm one of the lucky few on the planet that these life saving drugs are available to. You know, it's way too easy to start feeling sorry for oneself living with HIV and all that comes with that diagnosis. Until you realize that there are millions and millions of people who would love to have my struggles instead of what they're going through. Everybody alive today is trying to overcome something in life. After watching Nelson's 5 minute video, I'm adding self pitty to my list of things to put behind me. Thanks for the wake-up call Nelson, you da man!
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Comment by: Hank (Philadelphia) Wed., Jun. 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm EDT
So I just wanted to throw out there that while reaching undetectable was a happy day in my life, it happened relatively quickly. The day that I still sit in awe about happened just a few weeks ago. I started meds with a cd4 count of 224, now its 746. For the first time in my ten years of having HIV my cd4 count is above where is was when I was diagnosed. No virus, plenty of cd4's to go around. Thank you to the staff of the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia for keeping so many of us going!
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Comment by: Charles (New Jersey) Wed., Jun. 5, 2013 at 10:40 am EDT
I was sitting at mt desk at work when my doctor's nurse called me with my test results and said that I was doing wonderfully on the medication. When I didn't hear the word "undetectable" I was concerned but when I asked for my VL number she said it was very low, so low in fact that it really didn't matter...So I flat out asked was I undetectable and she confirmed that I was....yeah!!!! I asked for the results to be faxed to me and when I actually read the results I was excited. An undetectable result is only as good as the HIV test being used. My next set of labs showed a VL of 26 which meant I was no longer undetectable but in context 26 could have been lower than the actual VL on my previous test. Staying close to your numbers is the best way to monitor your health....
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Comment by: Matt (Tampa, FL) Tue., May. 21, 2013 at 10:34 am EDT
I have been un-detectable for 5 years now I have been on Atripla all this time and have not missed a single dose. Proof that as long as you stay on your meds and don't miss any doses hopefully you can also get to this level and stay at it.
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Comment by: Sad (Jhb, SA) Wed., May. 15, 2013 at 2:52 am EDT
My son was diagnosed HIV positive in 2012. He went on treatment and now has an undetectable viral load. However... he is lonely and is avoiding any relationship with anybody. He thinks he will never be able to find someone to love him because of his status. He is such an attractive young man but his heart aches for a partner that will accept him with his status.
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Comment by: Natalie Trudeaux (Kentucky) Mon., May. 13, 2013 at 8:13 pm EDT
I suffer from aids depression and it affects my daily living do i know if my aids meds are still effectve? can someone tell me what kind of blood test i need to know, my atripla is making me deathly sick and i need a change in cocktail.
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Comment by: Bradley (Bellingham, WA) Mon., Jun. 17, 2013 at 1:15 am EDT
Hey Nat, I too was depressed and found out that the advanced state of my HIV disease had robbed me of my testosterone. Now I take hormone replacement therapy and I feel like a new man, I'm engaged in life again, I have enough energy to get things done and have an all around sense of well being. Before you switch off the Atripla (I take that too) be sure you ask your doctor to test your blood for sufficient hormone levels, if you haven't already. That could be a possible solution to feeling better without having to start down the road of anti-depressant meds. Best Wishes, I hope you get feeling better soon!

Comment by: Peter (San Francisco, CA) Sun., May. 12, 2013 at 9:54 pm EDT
I was undetectable for years. Then, I had to stop meds due to an allergic reaction. My doctor, who has since left the field, would not put me back on meds until lab tests were completed. Well, 5 months later, my viral load was 6 MILLION! The doctor was gone and a new doctor had to pick up where the other doctor left. I've been back on meds since January of 2013. My viral load is back to undetectable, even with the new more sensitive test. So, want to live? Stay on your meds. Nuff said?
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Comment by: Doug Collins (New York, NY) Thu., May. 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm EDT
I was quick. 60 days on epsicom and reyataz and I was below 20.
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Comment by: Shirley Hilda (Leesburg, FL) Wed., May. 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm EDT
I was diagnosed HIV+ 2007 and am 57 years old. I take Atripla and have been lucky not to have to change it. Became undetectable 3-4 months after diagnose. Now i'm experiencing toenail fungus - and finally found out that it may be HIV related. My 1st time here using a public forum to talk about myself. Such a lonely time for me-and I don't know what to do, where to turn to for support. Maybe this will be a start.
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Comment by: Bradley (Bellingham, WA) Mon., Jun. 17, 2013 at 1:25 am EDT
Hi Shirley, I was diagnosed with late stage AIDS in 2008 at age 45. I was so, so sick and had many opportunistic infections, including nail fungus. My doctor was going to prescribe me an oral medication to fight the fungus but I read that anti-fungal meds. can react with Atripla so I use topical treatments for it. If you are consistent with it, you can do wonders for making nail fungus go away and there are several products out there that you can buy over the counter without a prescription. Talk to your pharmacist to find one that will work for you. Good Luck!

Comment by: subash (india) Tue., Apr. 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm EDT
2009 my cd4 is 800 now it is 640, whether I have to start meds, but my Dr suggesting to wait for few months, is it correct. I using Novastat 1 pill everyday, is there any risk.
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Comment by: quintus murray (new york,NY) Tue., Jun. 11, 2013 at 10:16 am EDT
START MEDS NOW!!! Recent studies now say otherwise and suggest starting treatment immediately after diagnosis. Look at french cohort and other articles just say you want treatment now.

Comment by: JAIME LOUISE DOUCETTE (1110COMOX STREET VANCOUVER B.C. APT.405) Sun., Apr. 28, 2013 at 12:53 pm EDT
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Comment by: Bradley (Bellingham,WA) Mon., Jun. 17, 2013 at 1:35 am EDT
Hey Jaime, I struggled with Meth myself and it no doubt contributed to me becoming infected with HIV as I was very promiscuous while I was using. I support you in your effort to stay clean and can tell you it only gets better. I've been clean for about 6 yrs. now and discovered that as time went on in my recovery, bits and pieces of myself I didn't even know I had lost were coming back bit by bit. You'll feel like yourself in no time, just do WHATEVER you have to do to not use again! I had to go to Alaska for awhile to get away from the scene in Portland, OR where I am originally from. Sometimes you've gotta just do it for you and nobody but you. Yes, some people may not understand or they may feel hurt but continuing to party with a positive HIV status is pure madness. You need to ask yourself, "do I want to live or do I want to die?" I hope you will choose life, it get's better. Trust me, I've been where you are and if I can do it, you can too! Praying for you here in Washington, be well!

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