Postcards from three HIVers' treatment holiday:
Monica Johnson, 37
Volunteer CEO, HEROES
Currently ON meds
Before HAART: 700 CD4s, viral load unknown
Before break: Combivir and Crixivan; 650 CD4s, undetectable viral load
Length of break: 1 year
Before restarting meds: 650 CD4s; 80,000 viral load
Current combo and stats: Combivir and Sustiva; 902 CD4s, undetectable viral load
Took a break because: I was tired of being on the drugs. Plus, I found out that I probably shouldn't have started at all, given my high CD4 count.
How she spent vacation: I did nothing special, other than getting blood work every two months.
Back on meds because: Neither I nor my doctor were aware of the latest facts about STIs, and my doctor started freaking out when my viral load hit 10,000.
How she's doing: Fine. I've switched drugs due to kidney problems. I'm glad to be on a twice-daily regimen now.
P.S.: Before my break, I thought I could probably take one, but no one would listen. Then I met a doctor who told me to try it. Finally finding someone with initials after her name who agreed gave me the courage.
Scott Williams, 34
New York City
Associate editor in chief, Academic Physician and Scientist
Currently OFF meds