Not Just A Pill A Day
I received my HIV diagnosis in 2007, during a monumental breakthrough in treatment for HIV. New medication provided the patient highly effective treatment with minimal side effects and minimized drug resistance. The message was clear to me; get treated and move forward in living your life, because with perfect adherence to my treatment regimen, I will not develop AIDS.
Managing HIV treatment
The advancements in HIV medication provided me with great consolation, knowing that this disease was on its way to becoming a treatable chronic illness. I also did not view having routine blood work done to check my CD4 counts and viral load, scheduled visits to my HIV specialist, taking medication daily, and living a healthier life as a burden; nor something to be sad or depressed over, because developing AIDS wasn't in the equation for me.
Life-long medical treatment was now a part of my life because I was HIV positive. This reality empowered me in the process of accepting my diagnosis because it gave me control over my health and this virus; that wasn't going away. My life belonged to me. Yet, I was now embarking on a new journey; aging with HIV.
Aging with a chronic condition
The idea of having a normal life span was incredibly exciting for me at the time, given the circumstances. I pondered about my new reality of aging with this chronic condition, and it made me very anxious. I sometimes viewed HIV treatment being a double edge sword, and it reminded me that my life was now changed forever.
It has now been 15 years of living with HIV and going strong, living life to the fullest. I am undetectable and relatively healthy, given the multimorbidity in my case; (as opposed to comorbidity) at the age of 43. Comorbidity and HIV are common, as the body suffers from inflammation due to one's immune system constantly fighting off the virus; leading to comorbidity. My quality of life hasn't changed, but that isn't to say it won't in the near or distant future as I get older. This brings me to the point of this story.
HIV is not a death sentence
HIV is a chronic illness when properly treated, and no longer a death sentence. Yet, living a happy, fulfilling, and healthy life with HIV is more than taking one pill a day; as comorbidity, quality of life, and the continued stigmatizing of this disease, are issues that cannot be avoided; living with this condition. We are more than HIV, but let us respect what this virus is capable of doing when treated or untreated; and keep things in a positive and realistic perspective.
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