Long-term survival

I just finished reading the January+February issue. Thank you [Jeff Berry] for educating me. Thank you for reducing stigma. Thank you for saying uncomfortable things and asking uncomfortable questions. Thank you for your advocacy.

—Kristin Freeman,
Health Educator Planned Parenthood
Dayton, OH

I am also a longtime survivor and I am still kicking ass (January+February 2015, Let’s Kick ASS). I tested positive in 1990 when I was 22. Three weeks after donating blood, the Palm Beach County Blood Bank called me to come and see them. Driving up there my thoughts were: Why do these people want to see me? What is wrong with my blood? My first stage was shock. I could not believe I was being handed a death sentence (back then). I was so young. I did not know what to say to my family and friends. I began a suicide mission. My second stage was denial. I went to many places to get tested again, just hoping one test would come back negative. That never happened. I became angry. It took me a long time, many years, to come to acceptance. I’m able to tell people, to talk about HIV, to not feel ashamed anymore, and to take in as much knowledge as I could about this virus. I go to support groups and face my fears, I forgive and stop asking why. Today I am 47 years old. My last CD4 count was 1,034 and viral load was undetectable. I am a survivor, a strong, healthy person living with HIV. The why was to tell my story.

—Lea Fiorini
Delray Beach, FL

Drug guide Interaction

I just got through reading the March+April issue. Your drug guide is always improving. Kudos!

—Eduardo Perez
via the Internet

I’m 45 years old and I was diagnosed in January of 1994. I was prescribed AZT because it was the only medication available. After taking it for two or three months, I tossed the bottle of AZT into the trash and refused to go back to my doctor. In 2003 I came down with pneumonia and my T-cells dropped to 168 and I was officially diagnosed with AIDS. A doctor started me on Combivir and Sustiva. Since I started on medications, I’ve remained undetectable and my CD4 count has remained within normal ranges. With protease, integrase, and entry inhibitors still available to me for future use, my answer to the March+April poll question is I definitely feel more hopeful! The only issue about HIV/AIDS that still saddens me is the secrecy of HIV status disclosure.

—Shawn A. Simmons
originally from Kansas City, MO

Hep C in prison

As a subscriber to POSITIVELY AWARE, and an individual who is co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C, I read with great interest Andrew Reynolds’ article (HIV/HCV Co-Infection News from the 2014 Liver Meeting, January+February 2015). I am a 49-year-old male who is confined in an Illinois Department of Corrections facility. I was diagnosed with HIV in 1992, came into the system in 1995, and diagnosed with HCV 15 years ago. The treatment I have been receiving for HIV has been quite adequate; I have an undetectable viral load and between 700 and 900 T-cells. This has been my average for several years and I have no complaints with the treatment. In 2009, I was treated for the hep C with interferon. I was advised that this drug has a 30% chance of success, but after 40 weeks it was determined that it had failed. Since then, a new class of drugs have been released (Sovaldi and Harvoni), and they apparently have a 90% success rate. I discussed the possibility of being prescribed either of these medications and was informed that I was a good candidate, but that due to their expense, it was unlikely that I would be approved for either. I find it difficult to understand how I can be denied the opportunity to possibly secure a cure for my hepatitis C, simply because I am incarcerated.

—Name withheld
Galesburg, IL