A woman sits atop a grassy hill, looking over her shoulder at scary, rocky cliffs.

Coming Back from the Brink

Over the years, I have noticed there is a strong misconception that AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) are separate conditions. In all reality, AIDS is the final stage of an HIV infection.

Most individuals seem to think once you have AIDS, you are doomed to die. While this may have been the case in the 1980s, the medical field for HIV has come a long way since then. My own experience is evidence of being able to go from having AIDS to having HIV.

Recieving an AIDS diagnosis

I was hospitalized with the opportunistic infection pneumocystis pneumonia, PCP. When the hospital originally determined that I had HIV, my CD4 count was a staggering 5. They estimated that I likely had the disease for 7 to 10 years prior to that point. My fight with PCP almost took my life.

Slight improvement in my CD4 count

My body was so weak while my lungs and heart were struggling so much to do their jobs within my body. It took two weeks for a ventilator to improve my lungs enough that I could breathe on my own. After another two weeks, I was able to leave the hospital and go home. At this point, my CD4 count was 35.

AIDS-related recovery challenges

Lung capacity and function

One of the major issues I had after the battle with PCP was my lungs. By the time I made it to the hospital, my lungs were almost completely full of fluid. Even though the doctors were able to get the fluid out of my lungs, my lung capacity and function were still damaged.

Immediately after the hospital, I had an oxygen machine at home. I also had to work with a respiratory technician. To this day. I have handicap status due to my lungs.

A preventative for PCP

Instead of just starting HIV antiviral medication, I had to start taking a preventative for the PCP. Since my CD4 count was so low, it made it much easier for the PCP to return.

The easiest preventative is an antibiotic called Bactrim or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole. Unfortunately, I had an allergic reaction to this one and had to start an alternative medication of atovaquone.

Weight loss

With all the health challenges that I faced, I ended up losing 60 pounds. My 5’8” frame is most definitely not suited to be 90 – 100 pounds. This was one of the hardest challenges I had to overcome. It took me a year and a half to get to 130 pounds. I tried every appetite stimulant my Infectious Disease doctor could think to prescribe. None of these assisted in putting weight on me.

I started using THC gummies in order to get an appetite. Then eventually when I started dating my current boyfriend, I think a level of true happiness added the final push to help the weight come on and stay. I will still occasionally use the THC gummies, but not regularly and it is not required for me to get any appetite like it was previously.

Treatment is important in recovery

While a portion of the world believes once you are diagnosed with AIDS that it is only a matter of time before death, I am living proof of how inaccurate this is as long as treatment is sought.

Has anybody else come back from the brink?

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