Every three months, like anyone else with HIV, I find myself at the other end of the stethoscope, visiting my doctor. Though my training allows me to be confident about making treatment decisions, as a patient, my intuition and knowledge of my own body also guide my choices.
I go to a large HIV clinic, so I sometimes get switched from one physician to another. When I got a new doctor two years ago, I told her that my regimen for the last three years was a single drug, Epivir (3TC)—with my previous doctor’s approval, of course. I’d been on a 3TC/Zerit/Viramune combo when my lab work suggested that my virus had developed the M184V mutation. While that mutation meant that I had resistance to 3TC, studies were finding that it also made HIV less able to reproduce. With my CD4s staying around 500 and viral load holding at about 20,000, I had felt safe breaking the triple-combo-or-bust rule.
But my new provider didn’t agree. “Just humor me,” she said, and I did, stopping meds altogether. I knew that together we would figure out what to do if I got sick.
Three months later, my viral load was up and T cells down. We agreed: back to my one-med regimen. My labs soon reverted to their former status, and I knew my gut instinct—that of a well-informed, empowered patient—had steered me right. Like some of my own patients, I had played my role as a full partner in my relationship with my doctor.