In 1989, at the age of nineteen, I was diagnosed HIV positive. I had gone to have the test done at the advice of a friend who had watched my health decline rapidly over the previous year. The two weeks waiting for my test results were an eternity of anxiety. My state of health (mental and physical) at the time was not very good. I had been unemployed for a short time and had not been eating right or taking any measures to better my health. The day I received my test results, I weighed 125 pounds. Being six feet tall, I can only imagine how bad I must have looked. At the time, it looked as if I would live no more than a year, maybe two. Over the next year, I battled with depression and numerous illnesses. I had a severe case of eczema that covered my whole body and lasted over six months and several bouts of what I can only describe now as severe bronchitis and respiratory infection. I never had a doctor to diagnose this bronchitis, being unaware that I could receive any medical assistance. I knew that I certainly couldn’t afford to see a doctor on my own. Friends took care of me on and off as best they knew how. I spent the next six months moving from one place to another and working at different odd jobs and had dropped out of college. It was too much to handle with all that was happening.
After some time had passed, I had to break down and tell my parents that I was dying. They were very understanding and supportive, but also emotionally devastated.
I moved back home to live near my family. They helped me as much as they could with their love and support. I was able to get state medical assistance after a doctor diagnosed me as having AIDS. My T-cell count was below 200 and I’d had numerous infections. Immediately, my doctor started me on AZT, Bactrim, and Pentamidine inhalant treatments. My health seemed to improve for a short time. My blood tests fluctuated and showed minimal signs of improvement. I did feel emotionally more stable and like maybe I might live a little longer than I thought. I became more interested in my own health care. I wanted to know more and learn more about this disease and how they were treating it. I asked my health care providers all the questions I could. They answered all the questions they wanted to. When I inquired as to the side effects of all these pharmaceuticals I was putting into my body, I was told that I may experience some nausea and maybe some headaches. If I noticed any other things happening I should let them know. Well, that wasn’t a good enough answer for me, nor a good response to the question I had asked. They neglected to tell me that these chemicals they were using to try to repair my damaged immune system were in themselves immune suppressing substances. I didn’t realize at the time, but later discovered that many people were dying simply because AZT had damaged their immune systems beyond repair. The next time I got a fresh bottle of AZT, I kept and read the medical insert that accompanied it. I did the same with my other medications. I came to discover words like neurotoxicity. When I looked into it, I found that neurotoxicity means "this will be toxic to your nervous system and/or your brain". I also discovered that I would experience possible kidney damage, liver damage, and numerous other side effects that I wasn't told about beforehand. I was upset and angry that these people who were supposed to be taking care of me were giving me these poisons. They had no good explanation as to why they neglected to tell me these things. My faith in the medical community began to fade.
In the winter of ‘91, I had the opportunity to move to New York City and live with a friend. My health was not improving and I knew that I would probably never get this chance again. I moved, taking only clothes and a few boxes of necessities. I continued on AZT for a few more months, but the nausea and weakness were really getting to me. I knew that there had to be a better way. Being in such a cultural center as NYC, I began to hear a lot on the debate of different effective treatments for HIV and AIDS. I kept seeing people dying left and right from things as simple as a cold. I remembered my mother, in her trying to deal with my illness, saying, "who knows, maybe you’ll be one who is able to find a cure". Well, a cure was not something I thought myself capable of ....a successful means of treatment, maybe. A cure was the "magic bullet" that even the doctors and scientists could not come up with.
I started researching for myself and started looking into alternative therapies. My doctor frowned upon this type of research. Alternative therapies, after all, were "unproved" and not endorsed by the medical community. Nevertheless, the more I looked, the more people were living, and living a healthy life by using these "unproved" methods. The more I researched, the more I came across references to "no FDA approval." Well, I didn’t need a medical license to see which group of people were living healthy and which group were slowly and painfully dying. I talked to people and read a couple of books on some basic but effective alternative therapies. These people were determined to live. They told me that if I wanted to live a long healthy life, it was going to be totally up to me, and they were right. I quit taking AZT when I came to the end of the last bottle. My doctor advised against it and suggested that I stay with the "more proven" methods of treatment. I knew that the "more proven" methods my doctor referred to were not truly proven to do anything! I didn’t see anyone living more than a couple of years beyond their initial diagnosis, if that long. Those who did live longer were emaciated and constantly sick and on numerous medications. That’s not the quality of life I wanted to have. The medicines that they could offer me were, in my eyes, only experimental. If I was going to be a living experiment in the treatment of this disease, I was going to be the one to take responsibility for my life.
Since my decision to take my health care into my own hands, I have gained forty five pounds (I now weigh 170 pounds). I've seen an increase in my T-cell count (up to 500) and a year ago tested p24 antigen negative and my latest viral load test registered at "below detectable" levels! I did not test negative for the HIV antibodies, as antibodies often remain in your system even after an illness is gone. Even though a person may not have an illness, their blood will still show antibodies for that illness if they have ever been inoculated or had that particular illness. Today, my health and quality of life are far more than I ever expected to see. I never expected to live this long when I first learned I had AIDS and if by some miracle I did live, I didn’t expect to be this healthy. I cannot take credit for all the miracles that happened with my health. Even though the treatments that I use have been here on earth for millennia, I would not have found them if I had not asked God to show me the way. All I had to do was ask.
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