The two and a half things I use to keep HIV in check.
Here is the thing about HIV: you spend your time pretending it’s not affecting you, whilst making sure you never forget it’s there at the same time.
Well, if living with it, we’ve all been there: « I can still do everything I used to do! », « HIV doesn’t rule my life! », « Fuck you, HIV! ».
Yes, yes, it IS all true. It’s not just some mantra we use to think things are fine. We don’t need to think that, things ARE fine.
That is if you don’t get your head too far in the sand. The problem of course is that whilst living with HIV is OK these days thanks to medication -I only mean the health side of things of course, there’s no pill to fight stigma, prejudice and intolerance-; you need not to forget said medication!
Life saving tips. Literally.
We all have tricks I’m sure. And here are mine, with links and all, ‘cause I’m helpful like that:
1- You know the one thing I never thought I would need in my twenties (no matter how late into them I am, cough)? I dreaded buying one. I considered other options. Got it yet? No?
I didn’t see myself get one before I am, I don’t know, over 60. Argh. There’s nothing wrong having one at any age, that’s not the issue, many people have on-going conditions that required a mix of pills and it’s one way to keep that in check. I just never was the type to take medication. Even when I should.
Thankfully, I only have one pill a day to take, ATRIPLA. Why bother then, you might ask.
When I started medication, it was OK. Before bed, one pill, done. The problem is that despite having a great long-term memory, my short-term one is not always so good. Especially if waking up slightly foggy, as a side effect of the drugs.
I woke up once having no recollection whatsoever of whether or not I had taken the pill 7 hours earlier. I emptied the whole bottle on my bed, counted how many were in, checked when I had started, checked how many should have been left, did the maths. I felt like I hadn’t taken the pill. Or had I? The numbers showed I had. But maybe the chemist had counted it wrong. In the end I decided to trust logic over gut feeling and not take another.
Since then, I use a pillbox. One pill for each day of the week. If I wake up feeling unsure, I just need to check last night’s space and I know immediately. A missed ATRIPLA dose can be taken up to 12 hours later, and I don’t usually sleep that long! That way, I virtually won’t ever miss a dose.
A long way home…
2- That’s all good until you’re not home. Yes, yes, I’m aging prematurely and not liking so much the unexpected night out anymore, but they happen. Whether you end up partying until the morning, or sleepover at a friend’s, it is convenient to have a pill at the ready. And since I don’t really fancy storing a spare at other people’s place, and I don’t expect clubs and bars to cater for such needs either, the only way is to carry one on me at all times.
Yes. I carry one dose of medication on me. 24/7. That way, no surprise.
Since it just fits on my key ring and I never leave the house without my keys, no way I could forget it either. This box did the job on more than one occasion. I just wrap the pill in a bit of tissue, to avoid shock, rattling and humidity (mind, it’s airtight). You can even match it to your outfit! So you stay healthy AND stylish. Hallelujah. The only downside may be that it won’t fit all your pills if you are on a different regimen.
2.5- Finally: technology.
It’s not always reliable, and dependent on having a signal anyway, but THT’s MyHIV has a nice little medication reminder feature that sends a text whenever set up for. It helped at first. I still get it, every night, around 11pm. Sometimes it doesn’t work and I get 3 texts in a row days later, but when it does work, it is nice to have it. The message can be changed too, to avoid having your friends reading over your shoulder « YOU HAVE HIV, TAKE YOUR MEDS, YOU FOOL ». Mine just reads ‘Remember that thing.’ So I do.
I started using these two and a half tricks a few days after my first dose. It has been five months and my latest blood test shows that I am now undetectable. Of course, this will vary depending on starting numbers of CD4 and Viral Load. But if you struggle to keep up with meds and/or deal with the unexpected, maybe these will help.
If you have other tips, do share! I’m all ears.