I can remember the first time my viral load ever reached undetectable. I was 7 months pregnant and I had stopped taking my medicine for about a month. I had requested my doctor change my medicine several times. I was sick every day. I could not keep any food down and was in my third trimester of pregnancy. I wasn't sure if it was the baby, the HIV, or the AZT in the medicine that I was taking that made me sick so I had stopped taking the meds.
I felt better without it. But after my lab results and countless tears, my physician was expressing a lot of concern. My T cells had dropped down from 625 to about 550 and my viral load had gone back up to about 200-300 copies. I was already experiencing contractions and my physician was concerned that if I did not achieve an undetectable viral load in a month, the baby would be exposed to enough of the virus to transfer infection.
Luckily they prescribed me some medicine to help with the nausea/vomiting, and I was able to keep the medicine down. It was extremely stressful and frustrating but despite my depression and frame of mind I decided that I really didn't want my child to experience what I was, and needed to do what needed to be done to protect her.
Two weeks before my delivery of the baby, my viral load was less than 75 copies (undetectable). It was a relief but I was still scared because some copies were still showing. I was proud of myself. It was a struggle mentally, emotionally and physically, especially because I was pregnant. But I must say that having an HIV-negative baby was the best result of my undetectable viral load.
My undetectable viral load gave me confidence. I felt like it's better to know what's going on inside your body than to wait for HIV to ravage it. Being undetectable has allowed me to love myself in spite of the diagnosis and know that I'm protecting others from HIV by doing so.
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Masonia B. Traylor is an HIV/AIDS advocate, public speaker and mother of two living in Atlanta, Ga. She was diagnosed with HIV in 2010, at the age of 23.