Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, an international observance for those affected and infected by HIV. This issue, Q-Notes spotlights an HIV-positive patient and HIV/AIDS medical provider. We also highlight Charlotte metro resources.

Catch our preview of the our Print Exclusive article below, and be sure to pick up a print copy of our Nov. 28 issue at any of our hundreds of distribution points across the Carolinas.

Life with HIV: Overcoming fear
Patient and doctor say education and testing are key to prevention

by Matt Comer

Dr. Frederick Cruickshank and HIV-positive patient Mark Wisniewski say young people should know how to protect themselves and others.
Dr. Frederick Cruickshank and HIV-positive patient Mark Wisniewski say young people should know how to protect themselves and others.

For almost three decades now, doctors and HIV/AIDS patients have witnessed tremendous transformations in how the world of medicine is able to control and treat HIV, says Dr. Frederick Cruickshank of Charlotte’s Rosedale Infectious Diseases.

In the early days of the epidemic, no medicines had yet to be developed for treating the virus that causes AIDS. For those who contracted HIV, news of the infection amounted to a death sentence. It wasn’t long until some drugs started rolling out of the laboratories of pharmaceutical companies. The changes in medical treatment continued, with patients going from prescriptions of multiple drugs, multiple times per day to newer classes of drugs taken once or twice daily.

Patient Mark Wisniewski, who was diagnosed with HIV in the fall of 2002, says his health remained good enough that he only started taking medicine to control the virus just a year ago. He’s now enrolled in a research study and receiving medicines at a lower cost than if he were to seek medications on his own.
Wisniewski says multiple factors led to his decision to enroll in a research study.

“First, it allowed me to be on meds,” he said. “The other factor was financial. Last, I could contribute and help in a study for HIV.”

The financial burden of HIV/AIDS treatment is particularly high, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 each month. Patients ineligible for research studies are forced to apply for financial assistance through state and federal programs, as well as local non-profits offering free or affordable case management and support.

Unfortunately, some funding and support programs can often come with a waiting list into the hundreds or thousands. Some patients have no choice but to attempt paying for their own treatment. Because of its outrageous expense and their tight wallets, some patients result to skipping regimens.

Although the medicines last longer, Cruickshank says such irregular treatment does more harm than it does good. It is also a leading factor in the development of drug-resistant strains of HIV.