Meds or No Meds?
Dear Dr. Dick,
I'm trying to get my boo to see a doc about getting on HIV meds. He got diagnosed in 2002, and started on HIV meds right away. He was healthy for several years, but then got on the crystal train and fell out of care (this was before I met him). He's worried about HIV drug resistance, and doesn't want to tell his provider about his crystal use. I just want him to be as healthy as possible. Any advice is much appreciated!
-Concerned in Columbia City
I know just how your boo feels. A lot of guys who have a history of crystal use feel judged and intimidated by their medical providers. I know some guys who dread having to go to the ER or to a clinic for a basic check-up. Luckily, Seattle has some top-notch providers who specialize in HIV care. If you have any friends who are poz, you might ask around to see who they'd recommend as a medical provider (with your partner's permission of course!).
Your partner's health and quality of life can be greatly improved by getting HIV care and treatment. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) now recommends HIV medication for ALL people living with HIV, no matter how recent the person got infected, or the person's CD4 count.
Getting people who are poz connected with care is called "TasP" (Treatment as Prevention). Research shows there are many benefits to taking HIV medications. These benefits include: a longer life and improved quality of life, reduced viral load, an increased CD4 count, a healthier immune system, and a greatly reduced likelihood of giving HIV to a partner.
It may feel awkward at first, but your partner's medical provider DOES need to know about his drug use; both medical and recreational. Otherwise, he or she could prescribe a medication or dose that doesn't mix well with other drugs. If a medical provider won't talk respectfully and openly about your boo's drug use, its ok for him to tell the provider how he feels.
Does your partner have insurance? Medicaid and many insurance plans will cover some or all of the costs related to HIV treatment. In addition, some people can get coverage assistance through Washington State's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). Want more info? Toll Free (In Washington State): 877.376.9316.
Your partner might also be interested in the Healthy Connections program at Lifelong. This program offers free, one-on-one help for HIV-positive men and transgender individuals to get connected with care, and stay in care. Click the link for more info: http://lifelongaidsalliance.org/healthyconnections
For information on taking HIV medications, including questions about drug-resistance, I recommend this page from the Resource Center on Keeping Up With Your HIV Meds:
I also recommend this article: The Silent Struggle of HIV Treatment Adherence: http://www.thebody.com/content/76250/the-silent-struggle-of-hiv-treatment-adherence.html
I hope this helps. Thank you Coco, for your wonderful advocacy towards your partner and his health!