A girl positive in Bristol – I’m Becky, 39, divorced with no children, I have a job that I enjoy and good friends that I love to spend time with. I love training and I push myself hard by running, cycling and lifting heavy things. I love coffee shops and cappuccinos, flapjacks and cinnamon cookies, sunny days and the sea but mostly I love the freedom I feel when riding my road bike or running through woods and fields. I’m compassionate, easygoing, loyal and I love to laugh.
I was diagnosed in August 2012 within 2 or 3 months of infection and my last results in July were CD4 943, viral load 1,513. My viral load has decreased in the year since diagnosis from 8,628 to 1,513 and my CD4 has fluctuated between 600 and 950. I saw the consultant at the Brecon Unit at the end of July for a check up and he mentioned there was a START study for people with a CD4 above 500, without treatment. He explained the process, that it was randomised and I had a 50% chance of going into the group that starts treatment early or the group that defers
treatment until the CD4 count drops. He said it was his duty to mention the study to all patients with a CD4 above 500 and he couldn’t say if there would be any benefit, this was the point of the study. What I liked was that he didn’t pressure me either way. He gave me some information to take away and arranged for the research nurse to phone me in 2 weeks.
My Mum was with me at the appointment and she thought it was a no brainer that I volunteer for the study as if I got selected to start medication early, it would “preserve” my immune system and keep the virus under control. Either way, I’d still be closely monitored as part of a study. The alternative was that I carry on as I am now and see how things progress. I had a call with the research nurse and she explained more about the study and I said that I would be interested in participating. I would need to do a repeat CD4 test within 60 days of my previous one to ensure it was above 500 and a variety of other tests which needed to be done fasted. I made sure I got an early morning appointment because I would be starving, I do a lot of exercise so eating regularly is critical – that’s my excuse anyway!
My CD4 came back as 653 and everything else was fine so it was over to the computer to decide… I got in the group to start treatment early and then a chat with the pharmacist to talk about treatment options. She was really cool, asked me lots of questions about my lifestyle so we could get the best fit. Eviplera seemed the best choice because my viral load was low and it was my first medication – one pill a day – lovely job. This happened so quickly that it took a few days for my mind to process it all as I was convinced I’d end up in the group to defer treatment! Now it was sorting dates for me to go in, get the medication, start taking it and I’m like arrgggghhh, hang on a minute!
I got the pills, I got a cold, I delayed it a day and then (wo)manned up and took my first pill. I’ve been feeling rubbish with a cold in the 6 days since I started so it’s either hiding any side effects or it’s too early to tell. I have had some odd dreams, I don’t usually remember them but this could be a coincidence. I’ve felt low but I’m ill and I’ve gone through a recent breakup so I think I’ll give it a month and see how I feel then.
In my other life, I’m about to start a 12 week nutrition and training programme with some guys that I did a recent 3 day bootcamp with. I do kettlebell and medicine ball classes with these guys already but I want to step it up a gear and become superhuman!
Becky (twitter: @hivgirlbristol)