Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Follow your HAART... in 3 parts [conclusion]

Don’t worry, be happy (okay works too) 
by a fellow lifeluber - part 3 of 3
read part 1, read part 2

Sorting it out.

[I was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS at an interesting time. The year that followed was a year of personal change and exploration, and more importantly, a year that marked an important attitude shift from treatment providers. By 2010, the medical community had changed their position from “wait then medicate” to “medicate first” for anyone with CD4 levels of 350 or below. The decision made sense, but caused confusion for anyone who was recently diagnosed but had to decide on a treatment plan quickly, like me.

Now, before I could face down my HIV/AIDS and take a path toward being healthy, I had to decide on a medication sooner than I thought I would. It wasn’t easy, partially because I had been diagnosed during this time of change. I ran into many obstacles and blocks on my path toward making a decision. My level of education and awareness, combined with my young age and personal circumstances, created a personal atmosphere of slowly building pressure, until finally I realized I had just three options left: take the plunge and start on medication, go crazy, or face declining health.

This story is not so much about how I decided on a medication, but more about how I learned to let go and stop worrying about the whole thing. I dedicate it to the kind people at Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and to my wonderful boyfriend, who helped make its telling and in part, its resolution, possible.]

Here's to the next 30 years.

I have been on medication for over a month now, and although I cannot say it has been easy, I can say that it has been manageable. I realized I was worrying way too much about HIV/AIDS and its different treatments before. Being resourceful, having a network of support, and picking up the HIV Drug Guide, published by the Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN), will be extremely helpful to anyone who is newly diagnosed.

If you don’t have medical insurance, or can’t get in to see a doctor for some other reason, don’t fret just because you aren’t going to (Chicago's)Northwestern Hospital or North Star Clinic or any of the so-called HIV treatment “superstars.” It took me a long time to recognize that state-supported clinics and physician’s assistants can be just as good as a bona fide M.D., or better. There are a many good facilities with many caring providers out there.

Don’t give up. 

Lastly, an interesting side-note regarding Illinois’ recent controversial decision to make the requirements for approval in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) a six-month application process rather than a yearly one. I spoke to Illinois ADAP Administrator Jeff Maras, who explained to me that by making the application process every six months rather than yearly, Illinois was simply coming into compliance with the regulations other federally-funded states have been following for several years.

If you would like to know more about how the program works in your area, click here and contact the administrator for your state.

Thanks for listening, all. I wish you health and luck. Here’s to the next 30 years. 

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