David Bridle is managing editor of Boyz and has had HIV for over 25 years. Here he describes going on to combination therapy.
“I was diagnosed with HIV in 1994. It was two years before combination therapy came in. In the summer of 1996 I was rushed to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington with Pneumocystis pneumonia. At that point I had an AIDS diagnosis. I was in hospital for three weeks. Three years later in 1999 I wrote for our magazine Positive Times about my experience of going on to the new combination therapy.
‘I’ll always remember that morning. It was a Saturday in September 1996 and I’d got up around 5am. I’m an instinctively early bird and love the solitude before the rest of the world rises. I sat in my favourite armchair, and put on The Memory of Trees by Enya.
And then it happened. I just started to cry. I didn’t know why. The tears seemed to come out of nowhere. It had been a tiring week at work, and personally a momentous one. I’d finally begun combination therapy.
With tears streaming down my face I wondered what the heck was going on.
After the initial shock, I realised they were unmistakably tears of joy not of pain. Tears of happiness, coupled with an overwhelming sense of relief.
And the tears weren’t the only physical manifestation. My ears were streaming with liquid. It was a bit like a very runny form of ear wax. This shocked me too. After all I hadn’t had any ear wax in my ears for over two years.
It gradually dawned on me what these feelings and symptoms were about, I’d taken my first doses of AZT, 3TC and Indinavir five days before. And had taken all my pills since. As I listened to my body, and felt these deep, uplifting emotions, I realised, for the first time, that these drugs were actually working.
The ear wax was the first real physical evidence that my immune system was returning. It was to be followed weeks later by my first cold symptoms – like sneezing and blowing my nose – for over three years.
The message was clear. The tears of joy were my mind and body saying: Thank God! The battle inside is beginning to abate.
‘What do you want to achieve?’, my consultant had asked the previous week. ‘To carry on working,’ I’d replied.’
And more than 25 years after my HIV diagnosis, I’m still working. And I’m proud to say, still working at Boyz.”