“I cried each time I took the med­i­ca­tion, be­cause it was a con­stant re­minder of what had hap­pened to me.”

Simply Her (Singapore) - - Singhealth Special -

cells that pro­tect the body from in­fec­tion; their level in­di­cates how well the im­mune sys­tem is work­ing. A nor­mal count ranges from 6001,200 cells in one cu­bic mil­lime­tre of blood.

In HIV pa­tients, a low CD4 count in­creases the chance of de­vel­op­ing Aids. When An­gel’s CD4 count came up at a dan­ger­ously low 201, her doc­tor told her she had to start HIV treat­ment im­me­di­ately.

HIV is treated with an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy, a com­bi­na­tion of medicines that aim to con­trol the amount of the virus in the body. An­gel was hes­i­tant to start her regime, as she had spo­ken to other HIV pa­tients dur­ing monthly support ses­sions and had heard hor­ror sto­ries about the side ef­fects, which in­cluded hal­lu­ci­na­tions.

“I braced my­self. I knew that once I started, I would have to be on it for life,” she says. “I cried each time I took the med­i­ca­tion (five tablets a day), be­cause it was a con­stant re­minder of what had hap­pened to me.”

It was rough ini­tially. The first pro­to­col An­gel was put on caused her to de­velop a stone in her gall blad­der and kid­ney. As she was al­ler­gic to cer­tain drugs, her doc­tor had to keep try­ing dif­fer­ent medicines un­til they were able to find a com­bi­na­tion that worked best, with­out side ef­fects.

It was emotionally dif­fi­cult as well. “I was so para­noid; I would get angry if my chil­dren came near me or tried to kiss me. Even though my doc­tor had ex­plained that HIV couldn’t be passed through ca­sual con­tact, I was so dis­gusted at this ‘dirty’ thing inside me that I didn’t want to ‘con­tam­i­nate’ my pre­cious chil­dren. It was re­ally hard for me. At one point, I spent a whole week in my bed­room just cry­ing.”

As her de­pres­sion wors­ened, An­gel de­cided that she needed spir­i­tual help. She asked her par­ents to look after her chil­dren while she went over­seas for a few months to visit her re­li­gious teacher. With prayer and med­i­ta­tion, she was slowly able to let go of her sad­ness and dis­ap­point­ment. “I found peace A few years ago, An­gel’s friends in­tro­duced her to Tom*, who was also di­vorced. After a few dates, An­gel wanted to tell him about her con­di­tion, but was ner­vous about what his re­ac­tion would be.

“But Tom was com­pletely calm when I told him. He thanked me for my hon­esty and said it didn’t change a thing. He as­sured me that he wanted to be with me. Two months later, he pro­posed, and we got mar­ried a year after. After all the hard­ship I’ve en­dured, he is a true bless­ing in my life.”

Tom has been sup­port­ive in ev­ery way, not just fi­nan­cially (An­gel’s med­i­ca­tion costs more than $1,000 a month) but emotionally. “Things are won­der­ful now. I have a beau­ti­ful fam­ily – a sup­port­ive hus­band and loving chil­dren, and I feel so blessed,” says An­gel. Tom’s par­ents know about her con­di­tion and are also very sup­port­ive.

To keep Aids at bay, An­gel takes daily med­i­ca­tion and strives to stay as healthy as she can. “I’m not al­lowed raw food or any street food to avoid in­fec­tion. I do in­dulge some­times, but for the most part, it’s healthy home-cooked food. My doc­tor also tells me to avoid stress, as it low­ers my im­mu­nity and causes my CD4 count to go down.” To pre­vent Tom from get­ting in­fected, the cou­ple takes pre­cau­tions such as us­ing a con­dom dur­ing sex.

An­gel now pays it for­ward by vol­un­teer­ing with Ac­tion For Aids, the support group that helped her after her di­ag­no­sis.

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