Getting Tested Is The New Sexy!

The key to stay safe is getting regularly TESTED for HIV and other sexualdiseases/infections every 3-6 months and knowing HOW to keep yourself safe. Safe Masti is your one-stop solution for testing clinics/labs, useful information on preventing HIV, and de-stigmatising life after HIV. Let’s start now!

Getting Tested Is The New Sexy!

The key to stay safe is getting regularly TESTED for HIV and other sexualdiseases/infections every 3-6 months and knowing HOW to keep yourself safe. Safe Masti is your one-stop solution for testing clinics/labs, useful information on preventing HIV, and de-stigmatising life after HIV. Let’s start now!

The Indian Private Sector and Its Approach to Helping me Get Treated When I Tested HIV Positive

by | Feb 25, 2019 | Counselling, Lifestyle, Living With HIV | 0 comments

Akhil Srivastava

I felt devastated, felt suicidal, felt like my life had ended, felt guilt about what “dirty thing” I had done and contracted, felt like I had been a victim, wondered why me, and suddenly felt (for the first time) that being Gay was completely OK but why God why did I have to test HIV Positive?
I will not share any cliched comments on what all I experienced when I discovered I was HIV Positive. Instead I want to share my journey with our private healthcare system which is whom I turned to when I tested Positive.
My first encounter was with the diagnostic agency (Inhuman Lab) that first discovered my Poz status. My response was disbelief. The person who told me my status had an entirely blank look: like he didn’t even register what he had just told me. I learnt subsequently that EVERY diagnostic lab should be equipped to offer pre and post test counselling but what I got was a blank look.
Confused, nervous, scared, I went in for a second test. This was a more credible diagnostic clinic (Ill-informed, Patronizing Lab), rated among the best in my city. The second test corroborated the results for me. The diagnostician had an expression on his face that said: “You, poor puppy. You will die soon.”
After my HIV status was confirmed, I reached out to the last person who I had had sex with multiple times. We had dated for about six weeks. He also got tested and found out he was Not Positive (we had not had unsafe sex but still). Instead of letting myself get dragged into the question of how I got the virus, I ferried on.
The third medical encounter was with the dermatologist (Dr Reliable) I had met multiple times in the past for minor infections and even for what I had suspected was an STD related rash but turned out to be non-serious. He was supportive and encouraging in his tone and message, assuring me that HIV is not life threatening and that I could have a completely regular life with proper treatment. The dermatologist referred me to an Internal Medicine (IM) (Dr Medically Efficient) in a top-notch corporate hospital.
Dr Medically Efficient treated me with no drama. He behaved like I had gone to get a stomach ache treated. Even as I cried, bawled, howled, he stuck to providing medical advice – outlining my five regime options. He calmly told me that I will live a normal life by adhering to the treatment protocol. He provided my Mom and I an outline of the expenditure that we would need to incur. At some level, it made me angry that the doctor was so calm he was about the entire situation (It almost felt like he didn’t give a fuck) But at another level I do know that his steely almost dismissive persona comforted my mother without even comforting her. “I hope things will be OK – no, I know things will be OK” said my Mom after meeting Dr Medically Efficient.
I started medication within a week of that meeting. He had described the likely side-effects, but I did not at that stage realize how tough it will be. He did not warn me how severe the side effects could be.
The upside was that within two months of treatment, I became undetectable. This brought me much relief and comfort. Except, now I worried about the cost of my treatment. I would have to be on this treatment for the rest of my life. The ARV drugs were costing us INR 3900 a month plus the doctor had recommended multi-vitamins worth INR 7000 a month. This was an additional INR 11,000 per month for the rest of my life, and I was just 25 with an income of less than INR 35,000. Dr Medically Efficient mentioned taking care of my nutrition (“eat healthy”) and he had encouraged me to go “have a beer with your friends and live your regular life” as part of his emphasis on “living a regular life”.
For unrelated reasons, I had to undergo a medical examination for which I was referred to a different (but also) corporate hospital. When I met the GP General Practitioner (Dr Kind & Wise) at this institution, I found her instantly offering mental and emotional support in addition to medical advice. She empathised with my concern at how high cost my treatment was proving to be on a monthly basis and suggested I access my ARVs via a stockist so that it would cost me INR 2200 not INR 3900. She also made me change my diet quite significantly. Alcohol, cigarettes and street food were banned! Quite contrary to the earlier doctor who encouraged me to have a beer with my friends to live a normal life. With a balanced diet, she suggested I stop consuming the very expensive multi-vitamins.
At the start, I did appreciate the Dr Medically Efficient for his focus on treatment without dealing with my emotional state. But once I met Dr Kind & Wise, I really did prefer her approach which was both medically sound but also emotionally engaged and practical. For sustained betterment post HIV, it is essential to be not just sensible in treatment choice, rigorous in adherence to treatment protocols but also to eat a balanced diet, curb health detractors like smoking and drinking and manage cost of treatment.
Over the past six months, I have also learnt that it is vital to harness the positive emotional energies of family and friends; and that ARVs are available Free of Cost from Government owned ICTCs and other centres. We live and learn!

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