Today marks my 13th Anniversary of Living with HIV. A few years ago I tattooed the red ribbon on my left arm to symbolize the fight to end HIV/AIDS. It’s been a journey, but one in which I have held my head high. One without shame and without silence. I have cherished the many folks I have encounter through and because of this journey. The many lives I have been touched by as well as touched are critical to my healthy outlook.
In December 2013, I began treatment for HIV — after 10 years of living with HIV. That decision was made during my tenure at The MOCHA Center where I was surrounded by great HIV experts through the Be The Generation Bridge program that tied biomedical research to Community Based Organizations. Research partners at the Rochester Victory Alliance as well as NYC Vaccine Trials provided critical information that shaped my decision to utilize Stribild, a one tablet, once a day drug. I was also under the care of an excellent PCP, Roberto Corales, who also was key in helping me move into this critical decision. I am extremely grateful to Dr. Corales for his expert advice and guidance with my HIV care.
My journey with The MOCHA Center in Rochester, Buffalo, and NYC, shaped this next chapter of living with HIV. While my viral load ranged around 1,000 and CD4 ranged around 700 for the first 10 years, Stribild made me undetectable within 30 days with no real side effects. A little over 2 years on medication, I can say I never missed a dose because of me. The one dose I missed was due to the hospital not allowing me to take my medication as I was being evaluated for kidney stones. A great track record! In my last labs in November, I was undetectable and had a CD4 count of 875. Which are great numbers.
The critical change factor was learning that untreated HIV causes inflammation that impacts your organs. Never heard that prior to working with these researchers. In other words, the longer you are not on treatment the more damage the inflammation will do to your body.
Now that I am back in Higher Ed, I am taking on the challenge of integrating stronger HIV Education and Prevention on campus. Tonight, I am talking for Black Family Weeks – “A Brotha’s Reflection of Living with HIV.” (7pm -Student Community Center – Multipurpose Room – UC DAVIS). If you are in the area, join me as I share my story.
The journey continues until we have a cure and we are getting closer. If you are unaware of PrEP — time to do some research. It is the latest biomedical prevention measure against HIV.
Talk about HIV. Know your status. Start treatment early. Learn about PrEP and PEP!
For my brothers and sisters living with HIV/AIDS, keep your head up, stay connected, and live!!!!