Over the past few years I have really fought and struggled to get my viral load down. It's been 23 years that I have been positive, and in the beginning it was just keeping your T cells up. Then the viral load was added. I was so freaked out when they told me my viral load was in the millions and we needed to change my meds to get it to undetectable. I did what was recommended but it wasn't working for me as they thought it would.
Frustrated and not wanting to keep changing meds I decided to go off of them entirely. In my eyes I thought I just needed to clean my body of all the toxins and restart them at a later time. My provider agreed. She took my T-cell count every three months for a year and a half. Around this time I became very sick and needed to start my HIV meds right away.
In October 2012 I began my new regimen. Within a few months, when my blood was drawn, my viral load was 50. It was the best news ever. It wasn't completely undetected, but it wasn't in the high numbers it had always been. I also seemed to feel a whole lot better too. Since my diagnosis and starting meds over 20 years ago my T-cell count has always been low, same with my viral load being high. Getting the news that T cells were back up and viral load was down has made such a big difference on me and taking my meds. Today my viral load continues to be in the range of 50 to 80. It fluctuates back and forth but I am feeling great and take my HIV meds every day. It may never get to undetectable but it is down and I feel really great.
When it was so high my mindset was negative, but because my provider listened to me and gave me the support to do the things I felt I needed to get my system cleaned out and restart a new course of meds with so little side effects, that has made a difference for me in living with HIV/AIDS.
Bernadette Berzoza is a cofounder of Sisters of Color United for Education, an HIV and health education organization for women of color in the Denver, Colo., area.
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