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It has been a year since I was diagnosed HIV+ and that brought my life crumbling down. The infection was traced back to exposure when I had unprotected sex as a part of a casual fling. At the first instance, I was actually thinking that it was a joke and unreal. I was in denial. It took a lot to digest and come into terms with reality.

One of the common misconceptions is that HIV+ and AIDS are the same things. Actually, HIV is a virus and AIDS is a disease just as Coronavirus is a virus and COVID-19 is a disease. Being tested positive and having HIV virus in the body is termed as HIV positive; AIDS is a symptom complex (syndrome) of HIV infection. It takes 10-15 years for a patient who is HIV positive to show symptoms of AIDS. What makes HIV so deadly is that it attacks the T cells which are the White blood cells responsible for fighting diseases in the body. When enough T cells have been killed by the virus, the person loses the ability to fight diseases and even a simple cold can be fatal.

After being tested HIV positive, my life totally changed. I felt very low and devastated. I also can imagine the social stigma involved, I was worried about my future and my family who are dependent on me. My family was also taken back but they came to help me out all the way by all means. Even though few people know about my disease status but I feel the society looks down upon HIV positive patients and treats them differently, needless to say, it shouldn’t be the case. It is common to see HIV positive people being terminated from work.

HIV is a lifelong burden on person and family economically. It can be hard to manage finances. Most of the health insurances list HIV as a diagnosis of exclusion of coverage. And hence one cant depend on insurance for HIV. On average, my expenses for the drugs (it is called A.R.T.) is around INR 25,000 to 30,000 and I heard that it is much more expensive in other countries. I gathered that the resources are limited from the government side also. Apart from this if I get an infection (which I am prone to as HIV virus attacks the immune system of the body) that would be an added expense which can be out-patient (OPD) based treatments running in few thousands and if I have to get admitted to the hospital it would cost in few lakhs.

As much as one is devasted, life has to go on. For now, my goals are to live in peace, fight the disease by controlling the infection by regularly taking my prescribed medicines and following-up with my doctor. Like anyone else, I also wanted to take care of my family and live long and a good quality life but destiny had other plans.

I like to listen to music to relax and travelling continues to remain my hobby. Without an iota of doubt, the biggest challenge of my life so far has been fighting this dreaded disease and securing my future! If there was one thing I could change in my life, I wish I could re-write the past (which isn’t possible). Now I have changed my thoughts to act positively in life rather than giving up.

Now happiness for me means to live at peace with myself and keep contributing in my own capacity to family and society. The diseases taught me in a very cruel way that one moment of negligence can change your life totally. We should always be responsible and careful for ourselves and our families. If there was one advice I could give to people reading my story it would be “Keep safe, keep educated and always keep your guard on!

Contributed by Dr Gowri Sankar BapanapalliThis story was anonymously narrated by a patient to Dr Bapanapalli MBBS, MD (INT MED), MRCP (UK) (LONDON), and PGDD (CARDIFF), MBA(SBS), MSc (HCM from SBS) who runs Nox Speciality Clinics. He is a healthcare professional with astute clinical skills and strong administrative traits in clinical governance as a medical director. He has contributed to educating the medical fraternity by being a speaker and presenter of various topics at a national level in Sultanate of Oman. He was associated with MNCs like Servier, Astra Zeneca, Elly Lilly, Novo Nordisk, Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, Merck as their preferred speaker. He chaired and did moderate many CMEs especially the ongoing clinicians’ / physicians’ club meeting sponsored by Servier. His thesis topic was published in the Indian journal of gastroenterology to check the incidence of hepatitis B and C in chronic liver diseases. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author.

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