Living with HIV, since at least 1989, has been a roller-coaster. Yet live I have, which is much more than can be said for so many others.
As treatments have become more sophisticated, and complex, over the years the goal of HIV/AIDS specialists has been to find the combination of antiretroviral drugs, nicknamed “the cocktail” because of its varying mixture, I guess, which works to wrestle down active HIV in the blood.
The standard goal now is for undetectable viral load, a bit of a misnomer since it is known that there is still some virus present in those who test “undetectable”. The problem has been that the best tests cannot quantify below a certain level.
Anyway, because I have been on antiretrovirals since the days when AZT was used as a single line of treatment, it has been a challenge to find combinations of drugs that would work. Some have outlived their usefulness for me, others I could not tolerate, and so on. Back in 2001, after much experimentation with my meds, I achieved “undetectable” status. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, that got screwed up a little over a year ago and the struggle has ensued ever since to get my active virus back down.
That day has come, so I learned today.
It took very aggressive steps, including taking twice the usual dosage of one of my new medications, but the goal was achieved. Undetectable. What’s more my CD-4 count, a less specific indicator of immune system health, is 580. While normal is closer to 1000 this is among the highest counts I have had since we started monitoring it in 1990. (When I nearly died in the early 1990s it was as low as 10.)
I am not satisfied.
There is no reason why, having knocked down viral load in me, not once but twice, these medications ought not be widely available to every single person with HIV/AIDS in the world – regardless of their ability to pay. They deserve the chance of some borrowed time as much as any of us in the “developed” world do.
We think nothing of spending billions of dollars to wage war, and yet we lack the will to make life more bearable, and extend it even (at a fraction of the cost), for millions upon millions of the sick.