A week and a half ago it was time to visit that most delightful of all additions to my life, the HIV clinic.
I'd been just before Christmas to discuss starting meds - I wanted to start meds pretty much as soon as possible after my diagnosis but there were various tests that had to be run first and such. I can't be put on one of the most commonly used drugs as it tends to cause depression in people, and I already have a history of suicidal depression so that's pretty much a no-brainer. My doc ran some extra tests to check for any drug resistances, allergies, and also ran her suggested treatment regime past some of her colleagues to see if they had any other suggestions and this december appointment was all about the results of all that.
I actually opted not to start the meds right then - starting a few days before the Christmas & New Year period, when my routine was hardly going to be regular (not that my life can ever really said to be have any form of proper routine or regularity, but still), my eating, alcohol consumption and sleeping habits were likely to be all out of whack, and regular clinics would be shut for the holidays with access only to emergency care via A&E departments. Added to this the never ending list of potential side effects from HIV meds - if they were serious I wouldn't have quick and easy access to my clinic to adjust my medication; if they were minor I'd spend the holiday period feeling like crap - and it just seemed far more sensible actually start the meds in January.
So January comes around and its time for another appointment. I'm now on a set of medication, 3 different pills all to be taken once a day with food. I happen to take mine at midnight, which is probably an irregular time for most people but for me I'm either at home, usually eating dinner around then anyway, getting in from work, finishing work, or far enough through work that I can take a 10 minute break to eat a mars bar, grab a drink and neck some pills and no-one will argue. I've actually been very lucky and had none of the side effects that tend to happen, not even the relatively minor (and also rather common) ones. And despite the completely fucked up state of my body's health even without the HIV, wherein it seems to just about hold itself together through some sort of delicate balance of all the various messes, the meds haven't had any knock-on effects to any of my other medical conditions either, so that's a good win all round really.
I've been taking them for just under 2 weeks now and it's all going fine, on the outside at least, in another 2 weeks I go back for more tests to check they are actually working and doing their job and also not destroying my body on the inside in some outwardly as yet unnoticed manner, but I'm pretty much expecting all that to come back fine. I haven't missed a dose yet which is good. Saturday night did mark the first point I had to adjust my life to my treatment regime though - I was working till midnight and a friend had invited me over after. And as I went to grab the cereal bar I now keep in my bag and take my meds just before leaving work, I found I'd neglected to put my meds in my bag before leaving the house - one of those instances of seeing things on the table and thinking "I really must remember to pack those" and then actually not doing so. So instead of seeing my friend I had to go home instead, and prioritize my medication, which of course was the right thing to do, but it still marks the first time I've had to reconstruct my life and plans around the fact that I now have to ensure that every day for the rest of my life I take a set of medication at more or less the same time each day. It did however mean I got to watch the season opening New York Rangers game versus the Bruins. Okay we lost, but there is NHL hockey in my life again, and Lundqvist made such an amazing glove save that I could probably just be happy if that's all that comes out of the Rangers' entire season.
I've also had another set of CD4 and viral load results.
Back in November, my CD4 was 570 and my VL was 97k.
From my December appointment, my CD4 is up to 1200 and my VL is down a little to 89k.
So my body has an immune response! Who knew?! I mean your body is supposed to have an immune response, but this is my body we're talking about, and it never really does what it's supposed to. My body appears to have noticed it has a horrible infection, ramped up the immune system as a result, and is even managing to fight the thing somewhat.
Of course, this is what the sneaky HIV wants to happen, as my body ramps up the immune response that just gives it more T-cells to infect and turn into HIV ultimately, leading me down a long and dark road of unpleasant demise. But that's what the meds are for. They stop that. Yay meds!
In other health news, I finally have an official address in London once more, that I can send mail to and everything. Which means for the first time in 18 months I can register with a GP. This is going to be entertaining, as there's basically a whole host of things that I haven't really dealt with cause they haven't been urgent, but have still been building up over time. And I'm now running very low on the stockpiles of various medications I keep for all my other various conditions and problems. And the problem with having spent ~20 years in and out of hospitals, being case studies for research groups and such, is that you know quite a lot about how to medicate. So I basically have a shopping list to go to my GP with. Doctors don't tend to like it when you do this. And amongst the items in that shopping list, I need some sleeping pills, because I'm fed up at struggling through the worst bits of my insomnia, and the pain meds that I'm currently on for my intestinal cramps I've grown too tolerant of, and need to switch from, so I'm asking for something stronger. Which means a boy with a history of attempted suicide, suicidal thoughts, and a mood disorder, is going to ask to be given large quantities of super strong pain pills and sleeping tablets. If I'm lucky my doctor is dumb and the pharmacist is blind and no-one notices any GIANT RED FLAGS going off about that one. For the record, I'm not ever planning to use the drugs to commit suicide - there's a nice block against me acting on any suicidal thoughts in my mind right now due to certain circumstances in life - I genuinely do want the drugs for my various medical problems, but I suspect the system will still set off a few alarms when all that goes together.