a woman paddling on a log in the middle of an ocean. A desert island is behind her on the horizon.

Your Health and No One Else's

When I was first diagnosed in 1997, I sat there in that doctor’s office so confused. Not only was I confused, but I left there without any information about HIV or who to turn to for care.

I sat in my house for three months feeling sorry for myself and wasn’t thinking of care. Three whole months before I decided that I needed to do something.

Finally starting HIV care

If it wasn’t for the yellow pages, I would have had a hard time finding an HIV clinic. I made an appointment and, a week later, I was sitting in the office, waiting to hear my name called.

The funny thing about it is that this HIV clinic was right upstairs from the doctor’s office where I received my diagnosis, so it was very surprising that I left with no information about where to go for care. Finally, I sat there nervous and wondered what was next. I remembered the doctor asking me about my history of partners and when I got tested. I told him I had a 6-year-old daughter and how scared I was.

There wasn't much discussion

The doctor never said to me that I would live along time, and he never said that I would not die. He only had my blood drawn. I went back the next couple of weeks. I was put on ARVs which I remember them being called protease inhibitors and there wasn’t a lot of discussion about my choice of meds to look up.

Ask questions about your HIV care

Over the years, I have learned that it’s my health and I must speak up and ask questions. So, I am letting you know that’s what you must do and don’t let the physician tell you it’s their choice. If you don’t get information about getting into care, then ask. And if they can’t tell you where to go find someone who will, or you look for care yourself.

Learn more about the medications that are prescribed to you

When you are put on medication or if you are asked to change a medication, do your research first. Look up the medication and find out about the side effects. Reach out to others to find out if they have had any bad side effects. There are many medications out there. If you can’t speak to your doctor comfortably about your health options, then seek another one who will listen to you and your needs.

HIV treatment has changed since the beginning

The medications to treat our HIV has changed so much in 35 years. The side effects have lessened. Instead of 14, 15, 16, pills that a person must take, it has dropped down to 1 or 2. Our meds (ARVs) are our life and keeps us healthy. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t need to take them because, when you reach undetectable levels (virally suppressed) you can no longer transmit HIV to your partner.

And, although there are few who may not be able to reach undetectable levels, it doesn’t make you less than anyone else. Just know that staying on your meds is important to keep you healthy and strong. If you want to learn more about being undetectable, click the link for more information: Prevention Access Campaign.

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