D R . E L R O I


Friday, August 29, 2008

Drawbacks of ARV

There are clear drawbacks or disadvantages and benefits to the use of antiretroviral therapy, but let's focus first on the former.

ARV is very expensive and cannot be afforded by the majority. The estimate cost for one type of drug is around 25,000 PHP per month. Therefore, if the person is taking three combinations of drugs it will cost around 75,000 PHP in a month. Praise God that there is global fund for the Philippines for ARV that all people living with HIV can take the medication for free.

A limited number of patients like around 5-7% can have very bad side effects such as making too little blood and becoming anemic, damage to the liver, kidney stones, changes in appearance and high cholesterol, skin rashes, etc. Quite a few people experience milder and less serious side effects which often disappear after the first month or so of treatment. Thank God that the only side effect that occurred to me was feeling nauseated.

People have to be very compliant in taking the medicine exactly as prescribed. This is to constantly keep the levels of the drug in the blood high enough to block the virus' growth, remember that ARV does not kill the virus. Missing a dose results in the level of the drug in the blood dropping, thereby giving the virus a chance to build up resistance against these drugs. Once the virus is resistant, there is no turning back. It is therefore very important that a person taking ARV does not skip any drugs at any time, even if they make the person feel ill.

People need to be closely monitored for side effects and resistance. As soon as resistance starts to appear, the person needs to move on to another regimen which is usually more complicated and expensive. As for me, I praise the Lord that my body has tolerated the combination I am taking and I am feeling normal.

Source: "Channels of Hope" workshop manual.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What Is ARV?

I have been talking about ARV previously but let's take a deeper look on what ARV is.

ARV or antiretroviral is the drug used to strengthen the immune system of people living with HIV & AIDS. The aim of this drug is to reduce the rate at which the virus multiplies in the CD4 cell or T-helper cell. It is imperative to realize that ARV DOES NOT KILL HIV. What they do is block the virus' growth. If a person stops taking ARV, the virus immediately starts multiplying again. The HIV can quickly build up resistance against one or even two drugs; therefore these drugs are normally used in combinations of three - one non-nuke with two nukes, or one protease with two nukes. This is often referred to as triple therapy, combination therapy or a drug cocktail.

Non-nuke is the short term for Non-nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors. It interrupts the reverse transcriptase process but do so in a different way to the "nukes". Examples of this drug are delaviridine, efavirenz or sustiva and of the three drugs I am taking which is nevirapine.

Nukes are also known as Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors. These drugs interrupt the reverse transcriptase process. They block or disable the "translator or intrepreter virus". Example of these drugs are d4T or stavudine, ddl or didanosine, ddc or zalcitabine, abacavir and the other two drugs I am taking which are AZT or zidovudine and 3TC or lamivudine.

Protease inhibitors are drugs that foil replication by neutralising the protease enzyme that puts new HIV together. Some of the examples of these drugs are saquinavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, amprenavir and ritonavir.

Entry inhibitors are the newest class of drugs against HIV. They stop the virus from getting into the CD4 cell. While the first three classes of drugs are relatively cheap and widely available, these are very expensive and not easily available. Enfuvirtide or T20 is an example of protease inhibitors.

I'll talk about the drawbacks and then the benefits of taking ARV on my next posts.

Source: "Channels of Hope" workshop manual.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Living Positively 3

As an HIV positive person, our body needs more than just medication. We as human beings are as a matter of fact not only body, but a unique combination or unification of body, soul and mind.

Think of a time when you were sick. Can you still see yourself alone, sick and miserable in bed? Aside from medicine, what will help you get well again?

Since when are flowers, SMS, chocolates became medicines? These things will make you feel better is not it? Then these must be some form of medication don't you think?

Positive living is not just about accessing medication, or the government providing free ARVS. It is about having a reason to live - about wanting to be alive.

Health is not about knowing all the facts, it is about wanting to be alive and therefore using knowledge to achieve that.

Would you therefore agree with me that positive living is also about doing the things I always dreamed about, spending sometime with people I love and people who make me laugh and feel good about myself, about claiming control of my life, my future, about being loved and supported, about celebrating life as a spiritual being, etc.?

In my case, I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior and that is positive living! Living a Christian life is living positively.

Each one of us needs this whether we are HIV positive or not.

Source: "Channels of Hope" workshop manual.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Living Positively 2

Let's take a look first in strengthening the immune system. Since HIV weakens the immune system, we need to look at healthy habits that can strengthen it. Eating properly and healthy foods, getting enough rest and exercise, reducing stress levels in our lives and avoiding unhealthy habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption amongst others do indeed have a positive impact on our general health. The body can further be strengthened by specific multivitamins and immune boosters which should be taken in consultation with a health practitioner or doctor. These general habits do in fact apply to all people who wish to take proper care of their bodies regardless if you are HIV positive or negative. The best time to implement these habits in your life is today!

Treat all the opportunistic infections or OIs. Although there is no cure for HIV, the majority of minor OIs can be healed. Ergo it is very important to treat the symptoms of all OIs as soon as it appears. This is to limit the damage it can cause to your body and to relieve you from the symptoms. A simple cold and sore throats could lead to meningitis. Untreated flu could lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. These are chances an HIV positive person should not take.

HIV will remain in the body but that does not mean all of the opportunistic infections also have to!

Antiretroviral treatment or ARVs or ART. Despite our attempts to strengthen the immune system and to keep the body generally healthy, there does come a time when the immune system is not strong enough to provide sufficient protection to the body and then it is advised that people should start taking ARVs. It's a strong medication that directly attacks the virus in the body and suppresses the multiplication of the virus. With fewer viruses or lower viral load, the attack on the CD4 cells is reduced and this gives the CD4 cells the opportunity to recover and multiply again. A higher CD4 count implies a stronger immune system.

Source: "Channels of Hope" workshop manual.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cagayan De Oro Experience

Before I proceed to the second part of Living Positively, let me tell you about my Cagayan De Oro experience. My second facilitation for Channels of Hope - HIV & AIDS happened last August 5 and 6 at Cha-li Beach Resort in Cugman, Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental.

I have improved as a facilitator but still a lot of things to learn. I found out that it's easier to facilitate the information part compared to the attitude and behavior exercises as I need to put more emotions or drama into it to touch the emotions of the participants and not just their heads. Though over all, I guess we made our point and most of them if not all of them, has changed their behavior and attitude towards people living with HIV. All of them are HIV advocates and they concluded that they have so much to learn when it comes to Christian response.

Their over all evaluation is very good and they want more information and knowledge. After our two day workshop, we went relaxing on the 7th.

World Vision ADP staff brought us to CDO's tourist destination, the White Water Rafting and Zipping. It was my first time to do such adventures and it was really a great and very unforgettable experience. During the more than 2 hours water rafting, all we did was to scream and laugh just to forget about being nervous. With the zipping experience, well, when I was there all I ever did was overcome my fear and jump until I get to the end of the line.

If all my service to the Lord will have fun like this or even more, I guess I could not ask for more. What a Cagayan De Oro experience! Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!