I’m glad I didn’t give into the negative stories on Atripla. It’s not for everybody but it’s working for me - for now.
When I announced that I asked to go on a one pill a day regime and then told everyone what I would be taking, I began to hear all the horror stories and they asked, “why Atripla?” It seemed that every other story included someone talking about the scary and vivid dreams caused by the Sustiva component. I did remember hearing some positive stories as well but not as many.
When I talked to my then (interim) doctor we discussed all possible alternatives and this one was closest to what I required and it sounded like it would agree with me. (One of the other ones was Complera, one I couldn’t take because of my bad cholesterol levels.) I could go on Atripla in part because I haven’t had any depression or mental health issues.
My first regime was 1-Truvada, 2-Presista and 1-Norvir which I didn’t have too many side effects taking, but rarely did my counts go back to 400 or more. The side effects that I did have I didn’t associate with the medications until after I made the change to Atripla. I was experiencing joint and muscle pain for much of the last two years on those medications and I was of the belief they were natural aging issues……and being very out of shape.
For seven and a half years I didn’t need any medications but due to a lengthy battle with stress my CD4 began crashing from the 400 – 600 range down to 350. My doctor explained to me that he wanted to see another set of blood results but he was recommending that I start treatment. That bloodwork revealed I was down to 330 so I officially started medications on July 1st 2010.
Over the years I have never had trouble taking any new medications prescribed to me. I have never been sick a day because of HIV, so I took this as two positive arguments for trying something new. It does happen, after all, that some medications lose their effect on over time. I thought this might be happening. So I started the Atripla around Christmas and had my first bloodwork done around mid-January, if I remember right. I was really psyched, I couldn’t wait to see if I made a good choice.
On February 13th I had my first appointment with my new permanent doctor. She was still familiarizing herself with my chart as I sat waiting to hear the results. I should explain here, my previous doctor isn’t coming to my town anymore and it would be too costly to go to his office in a neighboring city. I don’t drive so it would take most of a day to go there and backl.
Finally, she began reading me the numbers, and they all came up better. My CD4 was at 500, an increase of 120, my percentage was 32% which has always been at an acceptable level, ranging from 25% to 33% and my viral load remains undetectable as it has since my diagnosis.
On another note, my good cholesterol had come up better but so did my bad cholesterol which is never a good thing. I’ve had to have my medication for it doubled up once before so I wasn’t happy to hear I will need another increase but heart disease is running in my family right now. I am the lone member of my immediate family who has no problems….yet. I was made aware that cholesterol issues are or can be part of HIV infection but I’ve never adopted a healthy diet so maybe I should get serious about that.
Having a new doctor has meant starting nearly everything over. She wants me to do all those tests again. Then there is the colon cancer check; I am overdue to do that one, so it’s time to do the fecal occult tests again. I hate them. I also have had a problem with bone density so I have to restart those tests again as well. I have had my heart checked a couple of times and they found nothing wrong with it but I will have to see that doctor once again later.
As for side effects, yes there are vivid dreams. I’ve only experienced them twice so far but I didn’t find them scary in anyway. I don’t sleep soundly enough for them to be a nightly occurrence. From what I can recall they have been amusing so I’m thinking I should get up and write about them; if I go back to sleep I’m likely to forget them by morning.
I had some light headedness for a coupleof weeks but that cleared up. I’ve found that when I haven’t eaten I feel the shakes in my arms and legs. My morning or early afternoon bowl of cereal and banana doesn’t seem to do much to stop it but if I eat a proper meal it will subside soon after and I’m good the rest of the day. Because I have to take Atripla before bed on an empty stomach I am not having the acid reflux episodes I use to get, so that’s another big plus. It may also help me lose a little weight as well.
The joint and muscle pain is all but gone' now it is more an aging issue. I can walk further distances, providing it isn’t hellishly cold outside. I had been thinking 60 would be the beginning of the end, it would be downhill from here but now I feel more like I did before going on medications in 2010.
I’m glad I didn’t give into the negative stories on Atripla. It’s not for everybody but it’s working for me - for now. If it stops doing what it’s supposed to do, I’ll waste no time trying something new.
Now if the weather will just cooperate I can get out more, now that I feel like it, and I can work on getting into better shape.