A-Z

Interview 13

Age at interview: 39
Age at diagnosis: 28
Brief Outline: He currently takes 4 antivirals (AZT, atazanavir, ritonavir, tenofovir) after suffering severe side effects from other combinations. His viral load was low and he attributes his good health to taking responsibility for his own wellbeing.
Background: A single gay man born in South America who immigrated to the UK 15 years ago and now considers himself British. His viral load 300.

More about me...

Age at interview' 39

Age at diagnosis' 28

Sex' Male

Background' A single gay man born in South America who immigrated to the UK 15 years ago and now considers himself British. He was diagnosed in 1994. 

Outline' A single gay man born in South America who immigrated to the UK 15 years ago and now considers himself British. He was diagnosed in 1994. Although his CD4 cell counts have at times been low (<50), he was never had an Aids defining illness. His T cells were just below 200 at the time of interview, and his viral load 300. He currently takes 4 antivirals (AZT, atazanavir, ritonavir, tenofovir) after suffering severe side effects from other combinations. At the time of interview, he had some lipodystrophy on his body, but not his face, and he felt his low libido might have something to do with his medication. He attributes his good health to taking responsibility for his own wellbeing, his commitment to getting the best care (privately if not available on the NHS), diet, exercise and complementary approaches such as acupuncture, Chinese medicine and massage.

 

Had panic attacks and became suicidal when taking anti-HIV drugs.

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Had panic attacks and became suicidal when taking anti-HIV drugs.

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The medication reached my nervous system. And I became suicidal overnight. So the anxiety, the panic attacks. My chest, if  you had your hand rested on top of my chest, you'd feel the heat. This area was on fire… on fire. If you like [clears throat]... So I went to the clinic and said, 'You need to see me.' Spoke to my doctor. I said, 'That's how I feel. You know me. You have known me for years. That's not me. I'm going to kill myself. I don't… I can not handle it.' So I said, 'I'm going to kill myself', [laughs] I had nurses, psychologists… well, you name it. Everyone involved in the clinic came into the room with me. And I became very, very ill, emotionally. So when the doctor saw me, he said, 'I'm so sorry. You are having a reaction that happens to one out of 10,000 people. You haven't been blessed.' Off the medication (efavirenz). What can you do? You must go to the counsellor straightaway. You go in and talk to some of the NHS counsellors…

 

He believes his holistic approach to his health kept him well.

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He believes his holistic approach to his health kept him well.

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I had done everything that I could possibly do to keep myself well. So much so, even though my T cells were only 30, I never became ill.

My doctors could not understand. It's like, 'I don't know what you are doing. But whatever you are doing, it's working for you.' And I would, take my vitamins, I would go to the gym, eat well, surround myself with good things. Apart from, the horrible phase with [name removed]. I have acupuncture, homeopathy, you name it. Meditating, doing yoga, buy myself fresh flowers. Treating myself. Not as, 'Today is going to be my last day.' But simply surround yourself with beautiful things, and life can be beautiful.

Surround yourself with misery, allow the misery to take place, and you are in big shit.

 

He relates to the virus so that he feels he has the upper hand over it.

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He relates to the virus so that he feels he has the upper hand over it.

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I have embraced the virus. And I have become friends with the virus. I'm befriending the virus.

What does that mean?

We can live together. The virus can be part of who I am. But it is not going to destroy me. But I can try to destroy it [laughs]. Because I'm great [laughs]. I can do this. Let's share something. I talk to my virus. There are many evenings or nights I would lie in my bed, by myself, with the quietness of this place. And I would literally talk to it. I would visualise that I would get rid of it. Or for every tablet I take, I imagine that the tablet is killing the virus' releasing' if I'm having a pee, if I'm'

So you're peeing out the virus?

I'm peeing the virus (out).

 

Talks about how he has had to struggle and fight in life.

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Talks about how he has had to struggle and fight in life.

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So that's the kind of personality I always had. I was born in [country]. And my parents were divorced. I became' My father was what we could consider a playboy, who basically gave us a very hard time. I had a very' My mum was, a lovely lady. But she was born and bred to be married and looked after. It's part of her generation. By the age of 14 our money basically finished. My mum always refused to work. So I had to embrace the family responsibilities. Juggling work, studies, caring for her. So I became the husband, the son, the partner, the friend. I've got a sister who is 2 years younger. So life in general has always been not a' a struggle as such, but I always had to fight. I always had to' keep going. Which I did.

 

Drawing from his 10 years of experience, he summarises his advice about the life 'journey' for...

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Drawing from his 10 years of experience, he summarises his advice about the life 'journey' for...

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Be strong. In all the times I get most emotional about life, it's not when I'm having a painful day or a painful moment. It's when I'm really having fun. I'm laughing or I'm dancing. And then I realise that's life. And then I get very emotional and I might lose it one day. But it's a journey. It's a journey. The end could be tomorrow. Could be 20 years time. Try to get rid of the fear. Life with fear is the biggest waste of time kind of thing you can have. Get rid of the ghost. Embrace today. Live today for tomorrow. 

I'm not saying getting drunk. It's a choice. It's a lifestyle. You have to eat. Contemplate what you are eating. You have to exercise, you know? Surround yourself with beautiful things. Have that long bath.

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