Justin—
[pull_quote_center]Question 1: What are my chances of being resistant to anti-HIV medications? They say that it’s extremely rare, but there is a chance. So I was wondering if you’d be able to answer that question for me and answer more questions. Let me know.[/pull_quote_center]

Question 2: I should be able to take a 1 a day pill. But I found out my CD4 count came back at 309. It’s low. Ugh. Damn. But it should go up to at least 500 in a month if you change your diet and work out every day, right? Will that help? I’ll be happy if I can see it sky rocket to 900, minimum.

Question 3: I feel bad for the people who have to take that shot two times a day. Are the side effects of that shot really bad?
—The Newly Diagnosed DA


Photo by Don Harris  © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved
Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irst of all, I’m going to need you to count to ten and remember to breathe! LOL.

Those are perfectly normal questions, especially for someone who is newly diagnosed.

Let’s start with your first question, and thank goodness it’s an easy one with an easy answer. I don’t know the chances of becoming resistant on those meds…but this is what I do know. There are certain things we need to investigate before we have the answer to your question. The way we find out HIV drug resistance is through testing a person’s genotype and phenotype, which honestly should have been done immediately after you were diagnosed. Genotype testing looks for particular genetic mutations that cause drug resistance, while phenotype testing directly measures a patient’s HIV in response to particular antiretrovirals. Until those tests come back, we will not know what your resistance is to any of the HIV medications you mentioned.

Let’s tackle your second question about increasing your CD4 cell count. My CD4 count was 290 before I started HIV medication. My doctor and I decided to wait a little bit before putting me on medications. I’m unsure about what my viral load was, but I believe it was 175,000. [pull_quote_right]Everyone who has HIV is different; therefore the virus acts differently in everyone.[/pull_quote_right]Everyone who has HIV is different; therefore the virus acts differently in everyone. Presently my CD4 count is about 500 and my viral load is undetectable. With that being said, changing one’s diet and working out every day is good for everyone. When you have HIV, it does help your body to stay fit and helps your immune system stay healthy and strong so that your body can manage your HIV and whatever other ailments that might come your way. Also, setting goals are all well and good in one’s health but do not set them too high. A 900 CD4 count might be doable for some and not others.

Now, for your third question, about Fuzeon, which is injected into the body twice a day. As you may or may not know, it comes as a powder that has to be mixed with a liquid.

According to the Fuzeon website, Fuzeon can cause serious allergic reactions. Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction with Fuzeon can include troubled breathing, fever with vomiting and a skin rash, blood in your urine, swelling of your feet and/or injection site reactions (ISRs). And almost all people get injection site reactions with Fuzeon. Reactions are usually mild to moderate, but occasionally may be severe. Reactions on the skin where Fuzeon is injected include itching, swelling, redness, pain or tenderness, hardened skin and/or bumps (lasting about seven days).

Fuzeon’s possible side effects include pain and numbness in feet or legs, loss of sleep, depression, decreased appetite, sinus problems, enlarged lymph nodes, weight decrease, weakness or loss of strength, muscle pain, constipation, and pancreas problems.

I hope I’ve been able to answer your questions. Contact me anytime. I know it’s hard when you first hear the news that you have HIV, but I think that you are going to be fine. Since you’re asking about HIV medication, you are curious about your health and where to go from here, instead of giving up.


Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Presently, he is working toward his doctorate in public health. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].