My Illness Explained
[[[ Bear in mind, this work-in-progress is subject to much editing. ]]]
: - ))
Well, since you're here, & since you just passed through three "checkpoints", I'm gonna presume that you are not too squeamish about the details & opinions I'm about to impart. I'll do my best to convey my thoughts clearly with little rambling.
Early on, before I was tested, it was known, or highly suspected, that HIV could be transmitted sexually. I heard jokes about it while I was working @ the V.A. Hospital in Long Beach, CA. For example, those same med students had a graphic of a male sodomizing another male with the words "...Not without a condom..." penned in. I added "...or two..." But it wasn't a topic openly discussed @ first. Well, I was young still (29) & pretty sexually active. Most of my weekends & many times nights during the week were spent @ the baths. In 1980, I had about six or so STD's in a row. But, @ that time in history, it was "...give me the shots..." & "...where's the next party?..." This is when we believe I was infected. The first few years I had a number of unexplained illnesses. Mild ones, but nagging & persistent. Colds that lagged & lagged, unexplained headaches, sores that took forever to heal, extreme fatigue & a few others that turned out to be non-HIV-related.
About the same time, I was also subject to about 10 peri-rectal surgeries for fistulas over a four-year period. To this day I believe the doctors on the surgery wards were trying to make it so I was less @ risk for infection. Yes, I was (& still am, but more on that later) a receptive/submissive sexual partner. See, as a ward secretary, we got pretty "chummy" with a lot of the doctors. It was the nurses' jobs to administer the meds & all, but it was our job to administer the nursing station, order labs & special procedures, etc. The nurses could do it, but they are much too occupied with direct patient care you understand.
By & large, if this was the case, it did not completely work. A month or so after I healed, some evenings & weekends found me back @ the baths. Or, I'd go to a bar to relax & end up finding someone to bed. Or, I'd run into a friend or make a friend on the bus, or wherever. So althuogh I was not a tramp, I did have my share of encounters. Keep this in mind when we later discuss re-infection & drug-resistance. Around 1989, I began to seriously think about my senanegins. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to be playing Russian Roulette. The idea that you could be re-infected or become resistant to the drugs was not wide-spread @ this time. Nonetheless, I began to curtail my activities.
Unfortunately, I was also beginning to show increasing symptoms. The ones I had before intensified. It became more difficult to concentrate, make it to work on time, or last the entire day. And just forget about overtime. And my nerves, both emotional & physical!!! Impatience, insomnia, indigestion, indecisiveness, they all visited me & stayed a while. They started giving me drugs to combat & prevent the illnesses they did know about....AZT (in massive doses), Bactrim DS, DDI, Ativan, Amitriptylline,.... & a slew of others. Well, the symptoms from the drugs only complicated things. The AZT caused many side effects & intensified other symptoms that were mild to this time. We now know that the amounts we were given were extremely excessive to the effective dose & extremely toxic. This caused much nerve damage to my feet & hands. The Bactrim put me in the hospital for 10 days after only two pills had been taken. Some of the other drugs kept me bed-ridden a lot & tired &/or constantly in the restroom. This finally made it too impossible to continue working.
In 1990 I went on Social Security disability. My T-cells had gotten down to 203 (@ 200 HIV turns into an AIDS diagnosis), my viral load peaked in the 60,000 range, & my activity level was (if 3 is total bed-ridden) a 5. I was a mess. I'd have friends turn around & take me back home before we got to the restaurant because I was too tired to go. And it was getting pretty difficult being too far away from the bathroom. This was the pits.
Did I say "...How I didn't get sick..." before? Well, it's true. In @ least my mindset, sick was PCP, or something like that.....the areas from which most of my friends never returned...........
ericB's Watcher site © December 1998