First Day on HIV Meds Brings a Miracle From Mother Nature

Part of the Series My First Pill

Marcel Gil
Marcel Gil

I vividly remember the day I took my first ARV [antiretroviral] -- Aug. 8, 2012. That day stands out in particular, because it snowed for a few hours, and the last time it snowed in Johannesburg was June 1981. I joked with my specialist that Mother Nature was giving me something pretty to watch to take away the stress of getting that first prescription. I was more relieved than scared. I was tired of tests every three months to check for the 350 CD4+ count threshold. The CD4 no longer mattered; I wanted to start.

Nevirapine [Viramune] and Truvada [tenofovir/FTC] were my first pills. I was also being treated for bipolar disorder, so Atripla [efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC] was not an option. I barely noticed side effects. The initial strain of taking the medications was that, every time I took my meds, I was reminded of my status.

My next tests weren't great and a resistance screen showed multiple resistances. I jumped around a few meds, of which AZT [Retrovir, zidovudine] was definitely the worst. The nausea and running tummy just got worse. Finally, I settled on Aluvia [Kaletra, lopinavir/ritonavir], 3TC [Epivir, lamivudine] and Isentress [raltegravir]. The Aluvia keeps my stomach active, but I have been on this regimen for about 11 months, during which my CD4+ count has shot up incredibly and my viral load is now undetectable.

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 We'll be posting readers' My First Pill stories here in our Resource Center on Starting HIV Treatment.

Read other stories in this series.