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When Taking Meds, Honesty Is the Best Policy

July 1998

Okay, so I'm not a doctor person -- never have been. Until now.

The only thing I hated worse than doctors was needles. I've learned the hard way. After years of not even seeing a doctor (except one hot day one night about 10 years ago, when I was young and cute) I found myself forced to make that regular doctor's visit to get poked, probed and prodded. How things change.

I thought I knew everything about HIV and AIDS, having kept myself on top of the literature that filters down to me through various channels. Upon diagnosis, I learned that the doctor is your best friend, or should be. But in my arrogance, even after being diagnosed, I didn't trust doctors.

So when my doctor prescribed various ingredients that would become my own personal "cocktail," he also told me the various side effects to expect. When I had my prescriptions filled, the pharmacist also gave me a long list of what possible side effects to expect. No one told me that there were ways around most of the side effects, and being somewhat of a know-it-all, I didn't bother asking.

So I was put on my personal cocktail and sure enough -- BAM! -- side effects. Not just simple ones, but extreme side effects. I found that my cocktail was having not only physical effects on me, but also severe psychological effects. It was like being on a constant speed trip.

The really bad part was there was no euphoric period after taking the drugs, just lost sleep, which led to lost personality, lost appetite, which fed to lost weight. I became so cranky and rude that I chased off most of my friends and co-workers. Still, I continued on my not-so-merry way, popping pills like crazy, knowing I was going to beat the odds.

One day, I had had enough. I knew (or thought I knew) that if I complained to my doctor about the side effects, he would convince me to go on taking the various meds. So I stopped. Stupid me! I simply quit taking the protease inhibitors, and not long after that moved from an undetectable level to a very high viral load. Even still I didn't fess up to my doctor about the side effects, nor did I bother informing him that I'd stopped following his guidance.

My doctor is a kind and gentle man who dedicates himself to keeping on top of things and is truly concerned about my well being, and not just because of the bundle he's making off of my insurance company. Still, I continued my little charade.

After seeing my viral load climb, I decided to tell my doctor the truth. This kind and gentle man was truly hurt by my confession. He wasn't angry with me; he was hurt that I didn't trust him enough to talk.

Once I told him the whole story, he quickly adjusted my meds to a different cocktail. Now I feel wonderful every day. I eat well, sleep deeply, have repaired the damage I caused to friends and co-workers and my life is back on track.

Moral: Talk to your doctor. Trust your doctor. Let your doctor share in decisions. Stay on your meds.

This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

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This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Positive Living.
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