The Red Ribbon Star (RRS) of the month is dedicated to celebrating individuals who are living with HIV and are open about their status. Their journey is shared to inspire people, that you can live a meaningful and productive life regardless of your HIV status.
This month, Fredrick Adeboye shares his 9 years journey in a refreshing, relaxing but yet educating manner. From ARVs, to adherence, to disclosure and living positively……
TITLE : ARVs ARE A SECOND CHANCE TO LIVE:
Antiretroviral drugs or ARVs as they are commonly known is another shot at life, a second chance to live. Being a drug that must be taken for life, it is important to adhere strictly to its daily prescribed dosages. This is my 9th year on drug support. I was placed straight on drugs when I discovered I had HIV because I was already very bad, I must have had it several years before I became seriously sick. I swallow my life tablet every 12hrs, twice daily. When I look back, it is hard to know it’s been some 9 long years. On few occasions, early when I just started drugs, I missed my timings, and sometime skip my drugs, but that was then. I will not advice anyone to do that for any reason.
There are two common lines of ARVs regimen in Nigeria, if the first line fails; you are moved to the second line. However, the first line will only fail when you fail to adhere strictly to your prescribed dosage. The 2nd line is more demanding, it entails swallowing more drugs, while some of the drugs requires that they are refrigerated. It places more demands on you, demands that can be avoided with adherence.
People skip their drugs for several reasons; it might be for lack of money, which can prevent access, because, sometimes, you may not even have money to get to the clinic. It might be as a result of stigma, people might avoid you when they see HIV drugs with you, and I know several people who have had to hide to swallow the pills. We must be mindful that taking ARVs comes with lots of demands. First, ARVs demands you eat good food, have enough time to rest, and you may also face bouts of side effects when you just started, before your body adapts to the new situation.
I am very healthy and highly active. I work in Lagos as a Proof Reader, and I also report at times. My job is a demanding job, I am not treated differently from those who are HIV negative, but, wait a minute, how many of my colleagues even knew their status? You see, people are still scared stiff of conducting an HIV test!
My day starts actually with my drugs at 6.30AM. I repeat at 6.30 in the evening again. A key aspect of being on ARVs is the constant medical check-ups we do to monitor the success of our treatment. I am happy to announce that I am a symbol of treatment success in Nigeria. Now, my viral load is undetectable. If I approach the church now, they will pronounce me cured, that they have performed a miracle. But people must know HIV has no cure. A lot of people will abandon their drugs with claims of divine healing. When they are about dying, they rush back to their drugs. The HIV miracle from God is the ARVs, because it is working. You no longer have to die from being HIV positive. My viral load has been undetectable for several years.
Our medical check-up involves what we call bleeding; where our blood is taken every six months to measure the CD4 cell count, viral loads and other indices. Drugs are dispensed on a monthly basis, and on each occasion, we measure our weight. The weight is important as it is an indication of adherence. Weight loss is a common sign that something is wrong with a person on ARV. It is a sure sign to care givers to take further action.
I do everything that everyone does. I go to my barber, I eat out at canteens, and I visit the library, and hang out with friends. It’s a normal life. What I do not to forget to take my drugs is to go around with the drugs. I keep them in a drug case. My case is divided into two sections. One section is for my supplements, while the other side houses my ARVs. I also set an alarm on my phone as a reminder.
Nine years! I have come a long way. I thank God for a second chance at life. You know, with the advances in treatment, I have a strong feeling that I will live long enough to see the end of AIDS.
—– By Steve Aborisade (Contributing editor)
Next week our Red Ribbon Advocate (RRA) returns : celebrating advocates and activists in the field of HIV/AIDS.
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