It was Ash Wednesday 2007 when I got my HIV test results from my primary doctor. He said to me, "I am sorry, but your HIV test came back positive, this does not mean you are really positive, so I am sending you to a specialist."
My life was destroyed, I felt like if I just got a death sentence and I was thinking about how many more days or months I had left in this world.
I went to visit the specialist and she sent me for some more detailed tests and asked me to come back in two weeks for the results, weeks that were torture. It was living hell, all the things going on in my head, the worrrying, the nervousness -- it was the worst two weeks of my entire life.
I went back for the results and my doctor tells me that I am actually an AIDS patient because my CD4 count was only 140 and my viral load was 165,000. I didn't know what those numbers meant, but she clearly explained everything to me and told me how advanced the condition was on me. I was devastated, I couldn't hold it and my tears came down my cheeks. She looked at me and said "Cry all you want, and vent your pain, but you are not in a death sentence like everybody thinks, there are new medications and none of my patients has ever died." Her words did not change the way I was feeling. She left me alone for a few minutes and when she came back I was more relaxed, then she told me she needed to give me another test to see which medication was more effective for my particular HIV strain, but that she was going to put me on a pill called Atripla because she was completely sure it would work well on me. She also gave me Bactrim to prevent pneumonia.
I got the prescription and ran to a CVS pharmacy to get it and they didn't have it. Then I just stopped by my neighborhood pharmacy and got it there. I couldn't wait to take the first pill right away, I remember I took my first Atripla at 8:30 p.m. and I took Bactrim at 10:30 p.m. I started to feel a bit lightheaded and went to sleep. I had some nightmares that night, but I am not sure if it was because of the Atripla or just because I was so scared. The next day nothing happened to me and since then Atripla does not give me any side effects at all, except once in a while I have some vivid dreams (not nightmares).
Atripla has been my main medicine since then and I have not planned on changing it because I get basically no side effects. I forgot to mention that three months after taking Atripla I was undetectable and my CD4 count had increased to 350. Currently, my CD4 count is 875 and I am still undetectable, even though through the years my viral load has sparked up a few times to 150 or 200 then back to undetectable. But, my doctor said that happens sometimes and that I should not worry about it. I looked for second and third opinion and both told me that my doctor was doing a great job, so I am happy and I live like a normal person. I do not even think about being HIV positive, I totally forget about it and try to live my life as normal as any other person. I exercise, I go to parties and clubs. My life is normal, HIV is not in my mind stressing me and making me worse. If you are positive, be positive about your life, take your medication on time and forget about HIV.
What was your first pill? Whether it was AZT or Atripla, we want you to tell your story! Write out your story (between 200 and 1,000 words, please!) or film a YouTube video, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be posting readers' My First Pill stories here in our Resource Center on Starting HIV Treatment.
Read other stories in this series.