From the Executive Director
HIV/hepatitis co-infection -- this issue has become the very bane of existence for so many people, and is one of the most devastating medical problems facing the HIV-positive community today. As we all know, HIV by itself can be quite a handful to deal with mentally, physically and emotionally. When combined with another serious chronic health problem, however, it can turn a difficult health situation into a living hell. As we like to say at BP, however, "You Are Not Alone."
Case in point: starting late in 2002, I began to have terrible cramping, diarrhea, incontinence and nausea. It turned out that I had come down with a severe bout of ulcerative colitis, "pan-colitis" in my case, which meant that my immune system was attacking the inside lining of my colon, creating internal swelling, sores and pre-cancerous lesions all along my lower digestive tract.
As an HIV-positive man, I was unable to take the standard steroid treatments indicated for ulcerative colitis because my GI doctor was afraid that they would further suppress my already weakening immune system. The medication that he did end up putting me on worked well for a few weeks until a particularly harsh case of pancreatitis cropped up resulting in a three-week stay in the hospital -- 12 days with only an IV drip for nourishment as I was unable to eat or drink anything without causing waves of abdominal pain. With the help of a new colon medication and a major diet overhaul (no more fiber for Eric), I finally managed to pull through that health crisis relatively intact.
Today I'm living with both HIV and colitis, just as many of you may be living with HIV and hepatitis or other multiple health problems. When my immune system is doing well, the colitis acts up, and when the immune system isn't doing well ... then I've got a whole bunch of other problems to deal with. Even with the ongoing support of my family and friends I find that I have to dig that much deeper inside of myself to produce the energy and personal inspiration that I need to keep fighting the good fight. Here's hoping that all other co-infected people out there will keep on doing the same, and that this issue may help you along the way.
This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.