April 19, 2019

This Veterans HIV Story

Eight weeks ago I was diagnosed as HIV positive from indiscriminate sex. While giving me clarity, it's had a profound impact on my physical, and mental health.
by Scott Lee

A year ago the rashes on my face and neck began. Gradually I started feeling hot and cold, and becoming more fatigued over the year.

Four months ago intermittent fevers began until they were daily.

Three months ago when  shingles appeared, it dawned on me two rashes at the same time was bad. So I scheduled a follow up appointment after getting treated in the ER.

Normally I give high praise to the Robley Rex Medical Center in Louisville KY.

Due to scheduling snafus with both, primary care and the infectious disease, my testing and treatment was delayed a month. If not for an insightful resident calling, I might have completely fallen through the cracks.

On my first blood test I was given two numbers. The first is the viral load at 208,000. The second is CD4 at 208 (healthy immune system averages 1500). Anything below 200 is an AIDS diagnosis.

After my diagnosis I had not seen a doctor at the VA until landing in the emergency room severely dehydrated, and running high temperatures.
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The doctor in charge of my care in the clinic will soon be fired.
Until then, I know my patients rights, and the patient advocate is familiar with my case. Let's not forget the resident on point doing a stellar job.

My diagnosis made me feel even more isolated, and created a panic around who I could, and shouldn't tell.

When I started opening up and telling a couple people, all the extraneous conflict dissolved, and began deflating my sense of imploding.

Yesterday I took my 30th $100 pill. After two weeks of taking the medicine my viral load is down to 1200, and my CD4 is 254.

The doctor said it will take a couple of months for my immune system to fully recover, and to test undetectable.

The clarity?

I want to be alive in 25-30 years, being around family, and watching my grandkids grow up. Which means leading a healthy lifestyle, on all fronts.

Words carry the ability to open, or close our spirits. I keep hearing, “At least it's not a death sentence anymore.”

While I'm grateful for the medicines, science, and knowledge, it doesn't take away the fear, or symptoms.


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Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee