OK well it’s nearly 4 year on 29th April 2013, surprising it still seems like yesterday! I have talked in many of my blogs about the after effects of being diagnosed HIV.
In the last 3 and a bit years I haven’t accepted being a positive person until later last year 2012, when I was in secure mental health hospital due to a melt down which I covered in the blog (point of no return).
So where am I at with CD4 and Viral load well after the years of battling with the doctors and medication and being on one tablet a day Eviplera which I can highly recommend as I had no side effects and its great as I just pop it straight after tea and I never forget. Well my CD4 is over 300 and my viral load is undectable, which is surprising has I have said I have thought with the medications.
In myself I feel better and I lead a normal life, when I got told I never thought I would have a life again as I wasn’t educated about HIV I honestly thought my life was over and it was a death sentence. Here I am today stronger and leading a healthily life, I still battle with my mental health and that is going to take a lot longer to deal with as it’s not just a case of popping a pill daily.
What advice would I give anyone?
Well I would firstly say talk to friends and if you have a strong bond with family talk to them. HIV Treatment is your treatment or so the doctors say if you are not happy with treatment don’t do what I did stop talk to your doctor and that way you can build a good patient/doctor relationship as it is important that you feel comfortable.
How easy was it to get a HIV test?
It was really easy you can get a test done at any NHS Gum Clinic for free of charge and the result are normally available 7 days later or in some clinic same day.
Why is it important to have a HIV test?
Firstly it’s nice to know you status! As if you are having unprotected sex you are at a higher risk of becoming HIV positive. Secondly we read every few weeks about the rise of HIV infections and many people are unaware of their status. Thirdly if you are positive you can access life saving treatment.
What happens when you for a HIV test?
You can make an appointment at you GUM clinic and when you arrive there is a form to fill to in to get you on the system. Once you have done this you will go and speak to a sexual health worker and yes it can be a little embarrassing taking about you sex life, but remember these people have heard it all before. Once you have had a chat a nurse will take you blood, its only a little prick and its over with in seconds an appointment will then be made for you to go back to get your results.
When you go back for your result it is a very worrying situation I would say take someone with you, don’t do it on your own – it’s good to have support. You will be taken into a room and they will just check your details and you will be told if you are positive or negative.
If you are positive you are not just told and then shipped out with an appointment to come back and see the doctor, the sexual health worker will talk to you about treatments, the next steps and any other questions you may have. Why it will be a distressing time, its important you do ask any questions, once you have had time to get over the result blood test will be taken again and an appointment set for you to see the HIV consultant.
If you are negative you will be given information leaflets and sex packs and told to practice safe sex. Please take this on board as the number of HIV infections is rising each year.
Can I lead a normal life?
Of course you can we are lucky theses day with the great range of treatments available to us, unlike in the 80’s it was a death sentence as these treatments wasn’t available and little was really know about the virus.
For the first few weeks you may feel numb I know I did for weeks on end, you will probably lose your sex drive and eat very little. The medications may make you feel more ill but that is your body getting use to treatment and depending on your CD4 count your immune system will be repairing and becoming stronger to fight infections.
You will still be able to work, go out with friends and even have sex (safe) many find taking to a support group or a counsellor helps and there are many charities and support groups out there.
What is Viral Load?
Viral load is the term used to describe the amount of HIV in your blood. The more HIV in your blood, the faster your CD4 cells (immune system cells that fight infection) reduce, and the greater your risk of developing symptoms in the next few years.
The result of a viral load test is described as the number of ‘copies’ of HIV’s genetic material (RNA) per millilitre (copies/ml). Normally your doctor will just give your viral load as a number.
There are a number of different viral load tests in use, each using a slightly different technique to measure the number of HIV particles in the blood. All the tests are equally reliable at determining if a viral load is high, medium or low. However, each test has a limit below which it cannot reliably detect HIV. This is referred to as viral load being ‘undetectable’.
Undetectable viral load is usually defined as below 50 copies/ml. Until recently, this was the lowest detectable level for tests most commonly used in routine viral load monitoring. There are now some ultra-sensitive tests that can measure below 20 copies/ml.
This does not mean that there is no HIV in the sample, just that the number of copies is somewhere between 0 and 50.
What is CD4?
CD4 cells or T-cells are the “generals” of the human immune system. These are the cells that send signals to activate your body’s immune response when they detect “intruders,” like viruses or bacteria.
Because of the important role these cells play in how your body fights off infections, it’s important to keep their numbers up in the normal ranges. This helps to prevent HIV-related complications and opportunistic infections.
Ok, it’s not all about the numbers—but your CD4 count is one of the most important things to consider when you and your healthcare provider are deciding the best way—and time—to treat your HIV infection.
A normal CD4 count can range from 500 cells/mm3 to 1,000 cells/mm3. So if your CD4 count is within that range, generally not recommend that you start treatment for your HIV infection.
If you would like further information on HIV, please visit www.therainbowhouseproject.org.uk, if you would like to speak with someone living with HIV, please feel free to talk our founder Simon and he will talk to you and if you are thinking of going for an HIV test but don’t want to go on your own Simon is more then willing to attend appointments with you – depending on location/times.
The Rainbow House Project aim is to build a LGBT community in Bury, Lancashire that’s not governed by a board of directors, shareholders but is built by a LGBT Community. We work with our members on creating events, raising awareness on LGBT issues and providing a safe and stronger community by social networking.