Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lack of ARV Supply?

Finally, I got my ARV's after the reported shortage in HIV hubs in the country. PLHIV have been anxious for the past few weeks due to depleting supply. If some of us used to get a 3-month supply of ARV, we were only given a 1-moth supply for the past few months. In some hubs, PLHIV were only given a 15-day supply. Who wouldn't be anxious about that? ARVs are our lifeline. They prevent HIV from replicating and damaging our immune systems.  To put in layman's term, ARVs act as containers, imprisoning the virus in an enclosure, thereby preventing it from multiplying outside its container. But the container has an expiration. They are effective for a mere 12-24 hours only. Beyond that, the container disintegrates, and the virus will get out of its cage, and attack other healthy immune cells (CD4). Of course, low CD4 means AIDS, which makes the PLHIV prone to opportunistic infections that may be fatal.   

So, PLHIV need to take ARVs for life, at exactly the same time each day, to keep the virus within the container. A missed or late dosage can cause the virus to replicate and damage CD4 cells. Worse, if this happens frequently, the virus may become resistant to the drugs, and get out of the container despite intake of ARV. If the virus becomes resistant to all known ARVs, guess what happens? 

That's how crucial timely ARV is. I believe those people from Customs are ignorant, and outright stupid for not knowing this, which reportedly caused the delayed release of medicines from the port. You guys are putting our lives to danger!  

Of course, this could happen again in the future. I guess I better start finding out if I can go to Bangkok or India as a last resort, to buy ARV in case something like this happens again.  

Anyway, the good news is, PLHIV  have been ecstatic. After the push from HIV advocates, ARVs have already been delivered to various HIV hubs. And one more good news. The 3-in-1 drug (combining lamivudine, tenofovir, and efavirenz in 1 tablet) is now available in the country. I got mine last Friday. If before, I had to take 1 lamivudine and 1 tenofovir at 9am, 1 lamivudine at 9pm, and 1 efavirenz at 11pm, now I only have to take 1 combo drug at 11pm! Less risk of forgetting to take the pills.
Less chance of delayed intake. And, since most of my friends don't know I'm positive, it's now easier to conceal my drug intake, especially if I travel with them. I can just say, it's time for my nightly vitamins. I can't use that reason at 9AM, 9PM and 11 PM! Who takes vitamins 3 times a day? :) And, one more thing, I checked the manufacturer. The new drug is no longer from Ranbaxy. Ranbaxy is the manufacturer of my Lamivudine and Tenofovir. And according to this article, Ranbaxy pleaded guilty to felony charges and paid a USD 500M fine last year. This is a relief. 

But dude, the new pill is HUGE!! It's 3 in 1, what do you expect? hehe. It's bigger than Kirkland Multivitamins by 1/6. Indeed, it's a giant pill! But this is still a lot better than 4 tablets taken at 3 different times a day :) So... rejoice!