AIDS: Pill, People, and Pulse

Tue. December 23, 2008 12:00 AM
by Bill Pritchard

I can't tell you how many emails, phone calls, and hails I've received regarding this series on AIDS and the wonderfully transparent thoughts of Jay! (Not his real name) It is really hard for me to imagine the sensitive place this has put Jay! Here he is; opening himself up to public scrutiny as he sees his life written for the whole world to comment. I've had the pleasure of forwarding on the warm wishes and kind notes to Jay.

Part of the reason why Jay agreed to do this four part interview is because he wants his life to impact others. Like me, Jay realizes that a lot of people are contracting HIV that simply shouldn't. In a day and age where information is at our finger tips; we should all know the things to do and not to do; to protect our health. We also realize that countless women and men are HIV+ and need to know that we as a community support them and the difficult road they travel. To them and those who will follow we dedicate this series.

How many pills do you take a day?

For my HIV medication, I take three a day, two in the morning with a meal and one at night on an empty stomach. This doesn't include the two glucosamine a day for my joints; the one mega man vitamin a day; and one Valtrex a day for shingles I've got from an HIV opportunistic infection.

How much does your medication cost?

My medicines cost nothing because I am participating in a study at Northstar. My Valtrex is taken care of because of my AIDS Drug Assistance Program ( ADAP ) coverage. If I weren't eligible for ADAP ($41,600 for a household of one) and participating in that study, then my medication would cost me around $2500.00 a month!

It is worth noting that not everyone is eligible for this kind of financial assistance. Simply put, it is very expensive to live with HIV. This doesn't factor in the unforeseen sicknesses, and or doctor/hospital visits.

What are the side effects to your medication?

I don't have many side effects. I have experienced some vivid dreams with the medication that I take at night. Now this differs for each person. I have a friend that has experienced weight gain with his medication, but I think he is on something else. It really depends on each person, their body type, lifestyle, etc....

Have your friends been supportive?

My friends have been incredible! I am blessed and realize that not everyone is as blessed as me.

Have you got a good support system?

My support system is also amazing, it consists of my friends, my brother and the doctors & nurses. They are fabulous! I do need to mention the great support from my case manager, as well as the Howard Brown HIV 101 education class and Support Group . I also greatly appreciate my therapist.

What does your family think of your positive status?

As for my family, my brother is the only one that I have told due to his laid back attitude towards life and his deep pockets. (Just in case anything happens.) It does bother me that I haven't told my mom and dad. I want to do that when I have completely come to grips with this and have my life completely in order.

Other people's thoughts and opinions do affect a person living with HIV. Just think of how school kids are impacted by other school kid's opinion and multiply it by 100.

How does this impact your day to day?

I don't let myself get down a lot about this. I have been extremely proactive about learning as much as I can about this disease. I know now that I am going to be okay. I find that I still get down every once in a while but it's less and less everyday. I do remember getting down when I would get sick after being infected because I knew it was from the HIV. But now being on my meds, I feel much more secure. As for my life span, I have thought about that and realize that most likely I won't live as long as I would have. There are so many other important things to worry about besides that! I just chalk it up as it being a realization that I have to live with. Who knows, with medication continuing to be better and better, I might live a very long life.

There are countless organizations that are there for you. Ask for help! It's time for all of us to play safe; get tested ; and make healthy choices daily! Your mental and physical health depend on it.