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Patient Perspective: Rapid ART Initiation as an Adolescent

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Anonymous Patient


Patient has no relevant conflicts of interest to report.


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Released: September 7, 2021

I am 18 years old. I was diagnosed with HIV in 2021, back in July. I was feeling perfectly fine one day, but I went to the bathroom and I had this yellowish discharge. From things I learned in my health class at school, I knew that something wasn’t right. I went to my primary care provider and got tested, and they told me I had HIV. I was caught off guard—at first, I didn’t really feel anything, it was more like I was numb on the inside. After my diagnosis, my doctor sent me to my current HIV clinic. I had my first scheduled appointment, and I was started on HIV medication that same day.

I feel it was a relief that they wanted to help me as quickly as possible. It made me feel way better about the situation. Starting medication was good for me. I didn’t have any hesitation at all. I just wanted to get back to myself and retain my energy as quickly as possible. I felt more in control.

The clinic had a sign on the wall that said “U=U.” I was pretty fascinated, so I decided to read up on it: Basically it means once you get your viral load down to a certain level, you can’t transmit the virus to anyone else, as long as you consistently take your meds on a daily basis. That made me feel a lot better about the situation.

I really wanted to know how I could stop the spread within myself and within the community as quickly as possible, so when I saw that “U=U,” it really just made a lot of things better because it can take a load off your mind knowing that as long as you do what you’re supposed to do, you’re going to be fine.

I have a family member who I can turn to because we both have HIV. She told me how it was best for me to start medications as quickly as possible. She said that I can still live my life however I want to—and having HIV is not really going to stop anything unless I let it.

My advice for other young people living with HIV would be just to start medications and be honest with yourself. Start as quickly as possible for your mental health. You’ll feel much better knowing you’re doing something about it now rather than waiting.

Your Thoughts?
What support do you provide for young people with HIV who are starting antiretroviral therapy (ART)? Does your clinic have any peer groups for adolescents and younger, newly diagnosed people? Join the discussion by posting a comment, and then learn about other key decisions in HIV.

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