When Starting HIV Treatment Is a Turning Point

Whether it was 30 years ago or last week, people living with HIV who are on treatment often remember the first antiretroviral dose they ever took.

For some, that first pill is the beginning of a new phase in life: a turning point. In our personal story series "My First Pill," our readers recount their experiences starting HIV treatment. The following is one of many experiences we've cataloged.

My first pill was Atripla [efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC] and I took it Feb. 18, 2008. Still afraid of what it meant to start treating my HIV, I had no choice but to do so, as I had a raging hepatitis B coinfection with a viral load of over a billion. It was a huge moment in my life, a turning point. I wrote this poem on that day:

A Turning Point

By Ron Carpenter

I hold in my hand a pill,
the first weapon against HIV,
I have found the strength to wield,
and accept what effects may be.
I hold in my hand a pill,
one that if not for insurance,
would have cost me fifty-seven,
half my take-home from labors current.
I hold in my hand a pill,
I must take every day,
for the remainder of my life,
or 'til there's a better way.
I hold in my hand a pill,
that will probably make me sick,
but by comparison to what would be,
is well worth its starting kick.
I take from my hand this pill,
and place it on my tongue,
as memories flood my thoughts,
of my innocence when I was young.
I take into my body this pill,
ceasing my fearful flight,
whispering a humble prayer,
to help me turn and fight.