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Living with HIV

What’s it like living with HIV? What sort of changes occur once diagnosed?
We asked gay, bi, queer guys living with HIV in Toronto to share their experiences.

Medication

HIV treatment has come a long way! If you’ve heard scary stories about the HIV medications of yesteryear—handfuls of pills that need to be taken several times a day and cause unpleasant side effects—rest assured that newer drugs are far more effective, safer, easier to tolerate and much simpler to take. HIV treatment, and what we know about it, has changed dramatically in the past few years. You’ll be glad to know it’s largely a good news story!

Several very effective HIV medications that are easy to take and have few side effects are available for all Canadians.Starting treatment early is good for your long-term health and your lifespan.

For more information, refer to CATIE’s “Your Guide to HIV Treatment.”

“One medication I took definitely had a effects on my mental health, but the medication I’m taking now doesn’t have any apparent side effects.”

“Weight gain.”

“I am usually sore for a day after injections but that’s really it.”

“Weird dreams. I also developed tinnitus.”

“Fatigue! The only way for my body to fight fatigue is to maintain a proper diet and drink 3L of water every day!

“Dry skin. Also fatigue during a few hours after taking my meds.”

Receiving Care

“I get an injection in both butt cheeks once a month. It’s amazing to not have to worry about taking a pill once a day.”

“Better eating and more exercise. I’ve become happier and healthier.”

“Nothing out of the ordinary other than taking a pill everyday.”

“Keep a daily pill box! Important!”

“The most challenging part for me was accepting that I would have to be on treatment for the rest of my life.”

“Paperwork!”

“Gaining weight, being sexual with my partner (I haven’t gotten there yet), and developing Type 1 Diabetes.”

“Blood work! That was the worst part, especially at the beginning. I’ve always been very averse to needles so the frequent poking was a difficult adjustment. But getting regular blood work has made it easier to stick to a steady schedule of STI screening, which is hugely important to me as part of my sexual health care and enjoyment. For me, being sexually active goes hand in hand with being sexually responsible so I embrace my blood work as integral to my sex life.”

Daily Life

“Having HIV made me a leader and made me appreciate life more, even sex.”

“It made me more educated about my health and sexuality. More compassionate to others. Having a chronic illness definitely makes you more empathetic to others like yourself.”

“It has been an adjustment for sure. It was one of the reasons why I sobered up.”

“I’d say it has made me cherish life even more, helped me be more compassionate, and live without fear!”

“I take care of my body now.”

“The people I have met at ACT and PWA and other guys who are also HIV+.”

“I am a stronger and better person/. I see the world in a different way and met amazing people along the way that have inspired me.”

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