So a couple of you have been asking me about the medications that I take. I figured the best way to explain it all would be to do a blog entry on my meds. Right off the bat I will tell you I am not an expert on HIV antiretrovirals; however, I am learning more and more every day. The best way I can explain the meds is to share a link with you that helped me explain it all.
So when I started going to Whitman Walker Clinic in DC my primary care provider there really recommended that I join a clinical trial due to me not having any opportunistic infections, co-infections (like Hepatitis), and being in good health (other than HIV). He told me the benefits of going on a clinical trial was the fact that the medications were free (a huge plus for me), I would be in constant contact and care with medical professionals (I go in every 3-4 weeks for a check-up), and to provide data that would help the development of new medications that benefit the body more, and overall helping research to a either a functional or complete cure for HIV.
I started my medication regiment on January 26, 2012. In the beginning my Viral load was at 1600 and my CD4 count was at 116. I take four HIV meds once per day. I take: 1. Truvada 2. Prezista 1. Cobicistat (the study drug). The trail is for cobicistat, which is a booster medication that metabolizes other HIV medication. I was told that cobicistat could one day replace norvir, which is also a booster. My doctor stated that this clinical trial would be good for me due to the fact that the side effects were not as bad as the other medications, such as Atripla.
Once I began my medication I did have some minor side effects. I had headaches, stomach aches, lightheaded feeling, and lack of energy. These symptoms did not last long and within a month I was feeling normal. When I got my results from the first four weeks of the trial my numbers were improving. My viral load were undetectable and my CD4 count was slowly increasing. Fast forward to today and my viral load is still undetectable and my viral load is around 240.
Honestly, the only thing I do not like about my medication is the fact that I have to take it every day at 830am. I was told by my study doctor that I can take it within a two hour period however I do not even want to risk it. I am not going to lie either there are some days that I have struggled to remember to take my meds, and even on some ocassions I have gone over the two hour mark, which has placed me in a panic mode. It really gets me down when I am totally sort of dependent on my medication. If I leave home on a trip and forget my meds I have to go home and retrieve it no matter how far I am because it is a lifeline for me. It is funny because I am not definitely attached to healthcare because without it I would be at risk of getting sick and possibly having my condition progress to AIDS. A friend of mines who is HIV Positive and does not have insurance sent me an image that showed how much his medication cost.
$2000 for a month supply of medication!! Oh hell no!!
It is a tough world being HIV Positive and having medication being the difference between being alive or being dead. Hopefully progression in medicine and support from our country’s lawmakers will make access to HIV medication (regardless of income) easier. Although I am on a clinical trial one day the trial will be over and i will be required to start to purchase my own medication. Even with insurance premiums being around $30/$40 I am still looking at approximately $480 per year, which is still very expensive.
The bottom line is HIV medication has evolved from the original AZT pill which caused so many short and long term issues to individuals who were using it to treat their HIV diagnosis. We have come a long way however we still have a longer journey before us. There needs to be more work on getting the costs down, having medications that take less strain on the body, and finding a cure. This can be achieved…..