Profession: Trained as a physician in his native Lima, Peru, now works as an HIV program administrator
His story: Luis tested positive in 2003 after the grief over a lover’s death from AIDS-related causes sent him into a spiral of crystal meth and unprotected sex. His CD4 counts, starting in the low 300s, declined to 198 by early 2004. “I knew I’d have to start meds. I didn’t want to get the side effects, like lipo [the loss of limb and facial fat or accumulation of belly fat] that I’d seen in so many people.”
Before treatment: Luis distanced himself from the party crowd and took up a simple, healthy routine of “sleeping, working, church and the gym.” He got by with help from friends, a therapist and a few months with his addiction recovery group. Health risks: Diabetes in his family called for extra attention to the blood-sugar levels that HIV treatment can sometimes nudge upwards. His glucose (and cholesterol) have stayed normal.
After treatment: Luis became undetectable and the side effects that had scared him never materialized. A Hepatitis B diagnosis prompted a switch to HIV drugs that fight HIV and Hep B as well as extra attention to his liver-related lab work. Words of wisdom: Luis now helps other people with HIV realize what he’s learned himself: “HIV is not the end of the world. Not anymore.”