My story with HIV medication


Video: Maria shares her experiences with HIV medication

I’ve been HIV positive for 20 years, 10 of them without any HIV meds; and for the last 10 years I have been on HIV medication. If I could go back 20 years, I wouldn’t change a thing. I really believe (and this is only my opinion) that not taking the high dosages of AZT (Retrovir, zidovudine) that were offered 20 years ago saved my life.

Not everyone should wait this long to get on meds. All bodies are different.  My T-cell count went down to a dangerous 39; that is when I said “It is time.” I always follow my heart and gut instincts.

I was on Trizivir (AZT/3TC/abacavir) for the past 10 years. Recently I had another gut instinct: I said “Enough of Trizivir.” The reason for this is because of the AZT in it,  conversations with friends and of course my HIV specialist! Although my viral load was undetectable, I really felt it was time for a change…  and so I did.

I was put on Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC), which was what I’d wanted. I made the best decision for me. Less than a month and a half later my T cells are now 399 — they have never been so high! And my CD4 percentage went from 22 percent to 27 percent, which is awesome! I am still undetectable and very blessed.

So the one piece of advice I would give myself would’ve been the same — I wouldn’t change a thing. Now for those newly diagnosed: Things are different now! You have more options. You shouldn’t wait till your immune system is destroyed like mine was. Take your meds and live a healthy and positive lifestyle. Please find a doctor you can comm

unicate with and listens to you. Be proactive with your illness; and most important; do your research! These are our bodies, and we are in a learning process along with our doctors.

This is the key to living a healthy life with HIV/AIDS: Don’t minimize the illness! If you don’t take care of yourself and do what you are supposed to do, you can get very ill and even die. All of this is preventable!

Please love yourself and take your Meds when you and your doctor feel it is time for you to start. It will be hard at the beginning; you may feel sick while the body adapts to the medication. This is normal. But after that you will start to feel better, and with the HIV medications your immune system will have help against the virus.

Life is beautiful! And again, keep yourself healthy until the cure comes!

Maria

Not everyone is an activist!

YES! Not everyone is an activist! And we must respect this… not all people are prepared to come out of their HIV closet because others want them to. They are not less than anyone — many of them are still dealing with the shame that comes with the illness. Or they are trying to protect their family members — especially when there is so much ignorance and stigma with HIV/AIDS. We have to respect other peoples’ choices and views. We are their role models… so if we have it in us to be activists and advocate, let us do that for those that don’t feel prepared or ready yet. Or maybe they will never be. And it’s not because they don’t want to fight for the cause.

You see, that is where people get it so wrong. Just go back to when you were not disclosing. There is nothing someone could have told you or me that would have made us come out. You go through cycles. That is why we had the Larry Kramers and Ryan Whites who helped us so much in this cause. Yes! HIV/AIDS is being minimized and not really talked about as much; and we (the ones that are ready) must advocate, educate and STOMP on stigma. And when it is time for us to retire, maybe those who looked at our blogs, speeches, vlogs, twitter, facebook will continue.

I want people that are not ready to come out of the HIV closet or be an activist to know that it’s OK. You are not a coward! How I was told, some people were being called out by someone on Facebook that is an activist. And maybe in her ignorance or desperation wanted everyone to show their faces. NO! It’s not that simple.

No one has the right to force you into anything! Just learn from us! And many of us are fighting in our own way to get the word out. Keep on learning from our stories! There will be a time that will come where saying I am HIV positive will be like saying I have diabetes — I really hope! In the meantime keep yourselves healthy! And take your meds! This is most important! So we can be ready for when the cure comes. I really pray and hope it happens in my lifetime.

Love and Light, Maria T Mejia

PRIDE, From a Proud HIV-Positive Lesbian

Left, Maria's Mom. Right, Maria and her partner, Lisa (at her left)

I have pride and I am a proud HIV- positive lesbian female. Coming from an ultraconservative Hispanic family, it was a very hard step for me to deal with many issues in my life and to be able to speak about them — or “come out,” as they say. I was very confused when I was young — being sexually abused at the tender age of 3; having someone that was supposed to take care of me, a family member, take away my innocence — I learned to block things and keep things inside. I never thought I would end up in love and married to a woman! We have been together for four years and she is my everything — my true soul mate.

I was diagnosed with HIV at a very young age — I was just turning 18 — so I only had my mother, who was my rock in the process of dealing with an illness that was killing people very fast. I’d always thought to myself, during this journey of being positive, that my running away from home and joining a gang, the things we had to go through in our home with my father, and then having to tell her that I was HIV positive was just enough for her to handle. I didn’t want to give her one more thing to worry about, and tell her: “Mom, I am a LESBIAN also!”

So I just went through life, trying to do what was considered normal, and not give my mother more pain. It was really about her. She has always been so supportive! And I always had my gay friends; she was always very kind to them, but I know that she would’ve loved to have seen me married and having children.

As time passed and I started getting older, I started working out my own issues — and I still am! I am a work in progress. :) I came out of the closet, as they say, maybe eight years ago… but I was still hiding it from my mother, even though mothers KNOW. She is so understanding and loving; I was just afraid to hurt her more! She is like the military: DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL. But when I met my partner, Lisa, I just couldn’t hold the happiness and joy I had inside! I felt I had to share it with my mother. By this time I was also coming out of the HIV closet to the whole world, and I was ready and proud. I felt like a butterfly!

So, I went to visit my mother — as I always do, once a year — last year. We were on the patio of the house, on a bench, having a talk. I was beating around the bushes, and I was like “Mom, I have to tell you something about me…” and she responded “What? That you are with Lisa?” I said “YES!!! Oh my God, you knew.” She said “Yes!” Wow — mothers do know you! She told me, as she said to me when I found out I was positive 20 years ago: “I am here for you.”

I cried! I am so blessed to have a mother like this, who does not judge me; just loves me, accepts me, prays for me, and is my example for life!

So my pride has to do more with being proud of who I am as a human being.

Love and Light,

Maria T. Mejia

 

 

Discrimination and stigma: these are the stories (video)

I want to be the voice for those who have been discriminated for living with HIV/AIDS or for supporting us! There are stories of people from all over the world that wrote me in my international group for people with HIV/AIDS, and the people who love us on Facebook. The stories moved me and I had to tell them. It is very sad to witness the discrimination and stigma coming from our own families and loved ones. WE MUST END STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION! 30 years with HIV/AIDS and the stigma is stronger than ever! HATE! IGNORANCE! How do we fight them??? With EDUCATION. I really believe that by telling our stories and showing our faces we can end this together. I also know that people

live in fear of being discriminated and hide. Not everyone is ready to come out of the HIV CLOSET! So, we are here for those who DO NOT have a voice. Please, we must have Love and Compassion in our hearts. We fear the unknown! Please stop the ignorance. Once again I want to thank all the people that wrote me telling me their very deep stories that broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes. WE ARE ONE!

Love and Light,

María T. Mejía