Taking Your First HIV Med With the Encouragement of a Loved One
Part of the Series My First Pill
I lost my partner to AIDS in 1994. I was still negative. I volunteered for AIDS organizations and lost so many friends. I saw all the experimental medications come and the toll it took on all their lives. So the day I was diagnosed as positive I just became numb. I was numb for about 2 weeks.
Then I heard that the CDC was going to make the recommendation that everyone diagnosed as positive regardless of T-cell count should start medication immediately. Well, my T-Cell count had dropped that month from 650 to 475. I guess it was time to start anyway.
I kept reading and researching medications and playing eenie-meenie-minie-mo with them all. I became overwhelmed. A month went by and my T-cells dropped again to 375 and viral load soared into the thousands. I started having really bad night sweats. The doctor was really concerned and really pushed me to get on medication. I chose Complera, and was sent to the pharmacy to get my script.
I went home and decided to take them with my evening meals. Every night for 3 nights I tried to take the pill. I would open the bottle and stare at it or hold it in my hand. My dinner would get cold and I wouldn't eat. The pill was smaller than some of the vitamins I used to take so the physical action of taking it wasn't the situation.
How could I take a pill that would seal my fate? I would die like my partner and so many friends and people I knew. If I took that pill, I would be admitting there was something wrong with me. The fourth night, a friend came over for dinner. How could I take the pill in front of him? Tears were rolling prior to dinner and then he arrived. We sat down and I heard my partner's voice in my head, "Just take the damn pill will you!"
I did. That was 5 years ago now and I have not missed a dose yet. I have never had one side effect listed in the huge list of possible side effects. My T-cell count is over 750 each visit, and viral load is undetectable. I empathize with people who have a hard time taking that first pill.
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 email@example.com. We'll be posting readers' My First Pill stories here in our Resource Center on Starting HIV Treatment.