Just*in Time: July 2015

by Justin B. Terry-Smith

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ey Justin—

I have to get lab work done because I’m pregnant, and it is also a requirement to get an HIV test, but I’m scared to find out my status. I never had any signs of symptoms of HIV, and always fight off disease pretty good. But in my past I had unprotected sex with a couple of people.
—Shakira (not the singer!)

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

As a parent, I’ve always been very straightforward with my kid, even when he doesn’t like it. I’m also straightforward with those who write in. Why? Because we as a people must live in reality to move forward in the world.

Your reality right now, Shakira, is that you are pregnant and you need to get all the blood tests, especially HIV, to make sure that you and your baby are and stay healthy. I know you are scared about what the result is going to be, but you cannot be scared about anything until you are certain that there is anything to be scared about.

If you are HIV-positive, then the earlier you know you are the better off you will be. If not for yourself think of that beautiful life growing inside you; it lives because you live.

And don’t try to self-diagnose based on symptoms; some people who have HIV might not have any symptoms whatsoever and the disease might still be progressing toward an AIDS diagnosis. It’s better to get tested.

By the way, National HIV Testing Day was on June 27, but any day is testing day. Take a trusted friend with you as you get tested; you are in a delicate stage in your life and need the support. Good luck!

Ok so right now I’m on no meds my T-cell count is 624 and load is 20,000. They gave me Complera but I’m scared to take it…did you experience really bad side effects? Three months ago my T-cell count was at 908 and viral load was 10,000…the changes in numbers scares me. Sorry if I’m rambling. I just wonder how long I can go without meds. Thanks for responding.

No worries. I’m on Complera right now. You have to at least try it to see if your body does well with it. If your T-cell count is dropping and you’re under advisement of a doctor than you should listen to your doctor and see if it’s well worth taking Complera. (I don’t believe in holding anything back from my readers, so I am going to suggest you read up on it to learn about its full profile. You can start here: www.complera.com.) Complera is a great HIV medication that is fairly new. For me personally there are no side effects that I feel today. It was a lot easier with Complera because it is only one pill a day. I used to be on a three-pill regimen that included Norvir (one pill), Truvada (one pill), and Reyataz (one pill) and then I was put a four-pill daily regimen which included Norvir (one pill), Truvada (one pill), and Prezista (two pills). Now, on Complera, my T-cell count has increased while my viral load is undetectable. You have to remember to take it with food and take it at the same time every single day.

Everyone’s body that is infected with HIV deals with it differently. I cannot ethically tell you it’s okay to go off your HIV medication. I myself try not to miss my medication, though we all fall short sometimes. I really think you should talk to your doctor about your concerns and also going off your medication. I wouldn’t advise it, but you will do whatever you want to.

Try not to worry—the more you worry the more stressed out you will become. Living with HIV, you have to make sure you try not to stress yourself out. The stress might affect your body in combination with taking a new medication. Write back and update me about what you decide.


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].