I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Let Me Rephrase My Doctor Visit

After a conversation with my mom, I realized that my previous posting about my doctor's visit may have come out more negatively than I intended. So, I want to try to clear some things up... because if my mom misunderstood what I was trying to say, then I know some other people probably did too...

The doctor was super duper extremely positive and optimistic about the outlook for me and a partner in a serodiscordant relationship. To give the clearest picture of what was discussed, here is an outline of some of the ideas she presented:
  • With continued medication and Undetectable Viral Load, I have the same life expectancy as any other normal person. There is no reason to expect my Viral Load or health to change or diminish over time as long as I continue to take my meds regularly. As I age, I will have no more/greater health concerns than the average person. The only difference between me and any person sitting next to me is that I take a pill each night.
  • HIV is a very hard virus to catch- it is not as contagious or easily transmitted as other viruses (Hepatitis, etc.). Even with direct blood to blood contact, the percentages of transmission are very low.
  • With an Undetectable Viral Load it would be very difficult for me to pass it on. I am not really all that contagious since I have very little HIV in me to begin with.
  • Female to Male transmission is much less likely than Male to Female transmission. Semen contains a much higher viral load than vaginal fluids. Vaginal fluids typically contain very low amounts of HIV.
  • It would be highly unlikely to pass it through activities such as digital or oral sex on either partner. Take more caution if fingers, genitals, or mouth has open cuts or sores.
  • If we were to want to have babies, we could either try the low-risk traditional way, or no-risk alternative methods (turkey baster, inside out condom, etc.). Either way, it should not be a big deal. Many couples have sex with condoms normally, but risk having sex without condoms just when they are trying to get pregnant. PrEP could be helpful during this time.
  • If I get pregnant, I should stay on my medications throughout the pregnancy and all should be fine. There is a less than 1-2% risk of the baby contracting it. A natural birth or a C-Section are both equally acceptable and safe delivery options.
  • As far as a possible recommendation for him to take PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) as a method of prevention, she does not feel it would be necessary. With the combination of condom use and my Undetectable Viral Load, she again repeated that I am not really very contagious and this really isn't very risky.
So, that was the information we got, with lots of smiles and positive attitude all throughout. The information was totally optimistic, and I was happy to hear it (and as I later found out, so was my guy).

However, even though all of these were great general ideas presented... what we actually wanted (and did not receive) was the research and exact numbers behind all of these general ideas/statements/opinions. I know that for some of our questions, an actual specific number may not exist. But I also know that there are numbers for some of the other questions, and this doctor just wasn't as up on her information as she could have been.

Long story short... I was happy for the information the doctor provided. I don't doubt the validity of most of it. But, we were hoping for additional factual and statistical evidence to help settle our fears/concerns.

1 comment:

  1. Your desire for statistical evidence, I know many organizations have studied and produced data regarding the exact numbers you seek, but I wonder (compared to other pools of data) if individuals responses are truth. I.E. condom use. When my Mom (an Ob/Gyn) gives out contraception statistics, she gives out failure rate percentages with perfect use and failure rate percentages with "typical use"- you would be shocked how often contraception fails because people dont USE IT correctly and then state they "used something". I wonder to if HIV prevention stats in a positive/negative relationship would need those variants.