By Cliff, on TheBody
I became infected in early 2003 and I was diagnosed with HIV in June 2005. I didn't start taking meds until February 2010 and my doctor, of course, prescribed Atripla [efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC] -- very common.
Like so many others, the side effects were prevalent: dreams, dizziness and drowsiness during the day. Nothing special there; you've read that countless times! What I told myself was that I was going to adhere to this drug and soldier on. I drank coffee, I exercised, and I tried to meditate and concentrate on the task at hand at work because I needed the job I had because of the great health plan it offered. I felt fortunate to have access to the drug and to have started at a point where my CD4 was around 350. After several months of adherence, my viral load became undetectable and my CD4 climbed to within a normal range.
I thought that the side effects of Atripla were the price I had to pay for having HIV, for having let my guard down, for having failed. I really felt that I didn't deserve a normal life of not feeling tired, dizzy or depressed. I lived with low-level depression that more or less kept me down: I wasn't extremely depressed to the point of sinking further, but I wasn't really living, either.
In October 2013, I read an article on TheBody.com about patients switching from Atripla to Complera [rilpivirine/tenofovir/FTC]. I gathered the strength to print a copy and ask my doctor what he thought. He agreed to allow me to try it. It took a lot of courage for me to muster the "audacity" to ask him for something. I suppose I had "hit bottom" in terms of feeling shitty. I had had enough!
I feel so much better on Complera than Atripla. But I don't regret the period of nearly four years where I was depressed. In a way, the depression taught me a lot about myself and about how I can endure, and I developed a great deal of compassion for others, especially for those who are not privileged.
Read other stories in this series on thebody.com.
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