Friday 30 September 2022

Thought Picnic: 13 years on antiretroviral (ARV) medication

Taking treatment for HIV/AIDS

I was put on first-line antiretroviral (ARV) drugs on this day 13 years ago, on the 9th day of admission to the hospital, seriously ill, in pain, and after a battery of tests and biopsies. At that point, the consultants and specialists had agreed on the course of treatment to address HIV that had deteriorated into AIDS with the opportunistic infection of cancerous Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Other schedules for my treatment were being planned as I was informed the next day. I started on Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) and Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir), two of the former and one of the latter, once daily, I tolerated them well apart from occasions of diarrhoea. Within 6 weeks of that regime, my HIV viral load had been reduced to undetectable. [ Drug Interactions between Kaletra and Truvada]

Changes to medication

I was kept on this medication until May 2010 which was over 3 months after my last session of chemotherapy and when literally all other medications had ceased before I was put on Atripla. Today, I am on its therapeutic equivalent as branded Atripla has been withdrawn from the market because it is no longer under patent and the demand for branded formulary has fallen with the introduction of generic alternatives.

However, the more reason for writing this blog is to indicate that the antiretroviral drugs are efficacious, they work, they considerably diminish the effects of HIV leaving you with an undetectable viral load and usually an increasing CD4 cell count that gives you the ability to fight off disease.

Healthy status and medical adherence

With an undetectable viral load, you cannot pass on HIV, which has given rise to the U=U Campaign, Undetectable = Untransmittable. People of ARVs adhering to their medication and having regular check-ups on their blood chemistry and sexual health can expect to live as normal as possible lives.

This is all possible if one is under medical supervision and no decisions are made regarding the use of medication without expert instruction, even if by some good fortune, there is some indication that HIV has been eradicated by whatever means. Your HIV consultant must have fully tested and verified that claim before you change anything regarding your medication.

For me, I am a living testimony of how medicine with expertise, the support of many, the hope that helped my faith, that HIV even when you have fully developed AIDS-defining illnesses can be brought under control with medical intervention. Once again, it is not a celebration just sharing facts about my own experiences.

Blog - Reflecting on 20 years after an HIV-positive diagnosis

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