Med Side Effects: Thinking About How HIV Affects Us Physically

Tim Hinkhouse
Tim Hinkhouse

Hello there readers: I don't know for sure what all the side effects are of my new once-a-day HIV pill Genvoya [elvitegravir/cobicistat/emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide] are, but since I've been taking it I have been having all kinds of issues. On Feb. 15, I had an ultrasound on my abdomen because I've been experiencing symptoms of what I think are gallstones. I have been having pain in my lower right abdomen, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. I've been told that I'm pale in color when the pain is the most extreme. Fortunately, I am taken seriously by nursing staff compared with the other inmates that "cry wolf" to get attention.

I hope medical gets this issue resolved fairly quickly. I hate feeling this way. How many of you reading this have been through this kind of pain? Times like this, I want my mommy! (How do you make a 6'3" 280lb man cry? Get him sick!) I have met many inmates over the years that "work the system" for drugs to get high. As a former addict, I want to stay away from any of those old addictive behaviors, being manipulative, lying, cheating, etc. I don't want mind-altering drugs because I like being aware of what is going on and living in each moment of reality. Just fix me.

Now that I have been HIV positive for almost 27 years and am getting older, there are bound to be problems. There has been pain in the upper left side of my abdomen, which tells me that I could be having bowel issues. The medical department gave me the slides to test for colorectal cancer. I am falling apart, and this bothers me.

When I tested positive for HIV all those years ago, it took me a long time to process my reality, which was death at a young age. Think about it though: We all are going to die someday. My ticket to the great beyond was punched a long time ago, yet here I still am.

I think my mom and her second husband were ready for me to die before I was, and here is why. Mom's second husband passed away in August of 1994, which was three months after I got to prison. Before he passed, he bought a burial site for me at the family cemetery. I wasn't really thinking about a final resting place for my body because I was young and optimistic about life. Now that I am older, I have decided that death will come, and I don't care when it wants to take me. I don't fear death. What is on the other side intrigues me, and I'm a little nervous about what's there waiting for me. There are lots of beliefs and theories about what is there.

Prison food isn't the most healthful diet one could eat. That is why I try to stay away from processed foods, breads, desserts and yummy ice cream. There is an option of veggie trays for lunch and dinner meals. Usually there are beans, rice, carrot sticks, celery sticks and some kind of fruit. This has helped with weight loss. I will stay on this path of eating healthful, but I am not completely successful when it comes to sticking to a diet. This past Sunday, for dessert we were served Butterfinger ice cream bars. I didn't say no to it. I am OK with that, aren't I? A fella has to treat himself good once in awhile, don't ya think?

How many of you actually stop to think about having HIV and how it affects you physically? This illness has different effects on the body. Now, you add medications on top of that, and there are side effects that you have to deal with. When I was taking Norvir [ritonavir], it elevated my cholesterol levels way up. Well, we can't have that now, so I had to take a pill to get that back down to a normal range. Pills can save your life, but it'll drive a person mad trying to remember all of the ones you have to take and at what time of day. Do I have to take this with food? What will this elevate? I need a caregiver just to remind me to take my pills. I can only imagine how many more pills I'll have to take as I get older.

As we age with HIV, things tend to get more complicated. Thank goodness, there are doctors trained to take care of us. Being HIV positive has made me care more about my body. I have wanted to learn all I can to stay healthy. I don't want to ignore the current problems I am experiencing internally, which is why I am pursuing medical attention. I don't want to die right now. I still have things that I want to do, such as continuing to write blogs and other projects, which is what I love to do. I appreciate you all reading my words, and I look forward to writing more soon.

Stay healthy and stay safe.

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Read Tim's blog, HIV on the Inside.