I was saddened to read the news of yet another airline tragedy, Malaysian Airlines MH17, and even more perturbed when I read that it was blown out the sky because of a senseless war between two countries, Ukraine and Russia. I then found out there were possibly 100 HIV experts travailing to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. What a catastrophe that is for the global HIV research community.
Being HIV positive, it is all these people that have saved my life and to think that they had to sacrifice their lives for this futile feud going on that is merely about fuelling high powered leaders ego's, is sickening.
I have been HIV positive for 12 years - you can read about how I battled to come to terms with finding out that I was HIV in my book, 'Secrets Make You Sick'. I have been on ARV treatment for 11 of those years and have been fortunate to keep the HI-Virus at bay thanks to the amazing work done by researchers all over the world. I used recreational drugs over this period and am now a recovering crack cocaine addict. During my recovery I slowly weaned myself off recreational drugs after I completed 6 weeks in a Rehabilitation Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2004. I was unable to stick to the Narcotics Anonymous Program, so I used a Counseling Psychologist to help me through this tough period. However I was not ready to let go of recreational drugs in totality. I was fighting an addiction to crack cocaine and along with that the loss of a lifestyle that I had enjoyed. I was convinced that I could carry on using less addictive recreational drugs, like Ecstasy. So with my Psychologist knowledge I would still go out and party on Ecstasy. I know this can be seen as quite controversial and I can understand that some people would battle to comprehend this, however we are all different and my end goal was to at some point stop using drugs completely.
I reached the point 12 months ago where I no longer wanted to use any form of recreational drug. I had outgrown them and was no longer getting any joy from them, in fact quite the opposite; it was just complicating my life more and more. So finally 10 years after becoming a crack cocaine addict, I had managed to stop using any form of recreational drug. I am still very aware that I am a crack cocaine addict till the day I die, and cannot allow myself to become complacent in any way as I could end up back in addiction.
What I did not realize, and am now willing to share with everyone, is the damage I was doing to my immune system at the time. So although I was perhaps solving one problem I was creating another. As a result of using recreation drugs while I was on ARV treatment, I developed a resistance to the chemical components that made up the ARV drug I was taking which fell into Phase1 of the treatment of HIV. So the HIV virus became active in my body again and the virus went from being undetectable in my body to detectable and in April this year I fell extremely ill quite unexpectedly. I was admitted to hospital and after a week of tests and an exceptionally painful liver biopsy it was believed that I had Hepatitis C. That was not good news as in conjunction with HIV the treatment is quite harsh and very expensive. Fortunately the final test, which was the liver biopsy, came back negative. So what did I have? Well it turned out my immune system was run down and the HIV virus was active hence me falling ill. I then had to see a physician who specializes in HIV who informed me that my use of recreational drugs over time had contributed to me becoming resistant to the components of the Phase 1 drug I was using to treat my HIV.
I am hoping that by me being honest and sharing my story I am can help other people that are perhaps in a similar situation to what I was in, as I was totally unaware of the damage I was doing to my immune system at the time. If you are HIV positive and are using recreational drugs whilst on ARV treatment you stand the risk of having to move to phase 2 of the treatment of HIV, which is a lot more complex and costly and there are way more possible side effects. Had I known this many years ago at least I could have made an informed decision about my method of weaning myself off recreational drugs.
I have been on phase 2 treatment for a month now and fortunately to date am showing no side effects. I am thankful to all the researchers in the field of HIV because they have saved my life and, even if I have been quite negligent and irresponsible, I still value these people and their hard work, especially the ones that lost their lives in the recent tragedy, the doomed flight of Malaysian Airlines MH17.
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