I started a new bottle of Atripla at the weekend, which can only mean one thing: I’ve completed four weeks of Atripla, my HIV anti-viral medication.
Since day one of this blog and my Twitter account I’ve said that I’d always be open and honest about my life with HIV, I wouldn’t sugar coat it, nor would I make it out to be worse than it really is. I’d just put on paper (well blog) as I see it, warts, glitter and all.
It’s not been the easiest four weeks adjusting to Atripla, either phyiscally or emotionally.
Physical side effects have included dizziness, light headedness, slight weight loss and have made it nigh on impossible for me to get out of bed in the morning (I used to be so good at getting up!), and I even had to endure a whole body rash for a week – it didn’t itch or hurt, but I looked like a blotchy tomato person for an entire week, that was fun, thankfully it only lasted one week. The only effect I’m left with now is the inability to get up in the mornings – I just have to set more alarm clocks!
Emotionally, taking my huuuuge Atripla pill is a daily (or in my case nightly) reminder that I’m living with HIV and I will be for the rest of my life, it’s a tough pill to swallow – if you’ll pardon the pun. For the most part of my day I’m Sam the employee, Sam the son, Sam the boyfriend and I almost never have to think about HIV, but at 23:00 each night, when my reminder goes off on my phone, there it is flashing on the screen “Take Medication”. (Atripla has to be taken at the same time every night (within 10 minutes preferably) to be most effective, so alarms/reminders are essential to me – maybe one day I’ll be in enough of a routine that I won’t need them but for now I must live by my buzzer.) It doesn’t bother me too much, it’s just knowing it’s something I’ll never be able to escape.
Is it worth it? Of course it is! If I play by the rules, and take my pill every night, then soon:
- I’ll have an ‘undetectable’ (amount of virus in the blood is too small to show up on tests) viral load – which makes me healthier and makes me less of a risk to those who I have sex with, so little in fact that the guidelines have just been changed to stop prescribing PEP to people who have unprotected sex with someone who is who is ‘undetectable’ see here for more info.
- I’ll live until a ripe old age. People who start treatment in their mid-twenties (like me) and who are diagnosed early (like me) are expected to live until their late seventies now, as long as they stick to treatment protocols.
In the last four weeks alone my viral load (amount of virus in my blood stream) has dropped from 79,000 copies per ml, to a measely 352 copies per ml. To say my doctors are thrilled with my progress is an understatement, and so am I. They fully expect me to be undetectable within 3 months. I think I may have to set some champagne aside for that day.
For those of you charting your own progress with HIV, as the Apple adverts say: “There’s an app for that”. I found an application on the Apple iOS store called ‘PozTracker’ which allows you to record your blood results, changes to treatment etc, and it shows it all in a natty little graph. So to finish up, here’s my graph so far.
Take care, look after yourself!