Hi, my name is Nazarius Celsus Dorus and I have been living with HIV since 3 September 2004, the fateful day that I was diagnosed. When I found out, I was numb and had no knowledge on HIV or AIDS. All I knew was that I have the virus in my body and it is multiplying. In Malaysia during that time, the medication was not free. Luckily my CD4 count was high enough that I did not require it. But I had to open my big mouth to a colleague and she told everyone at work. I was out of a job straight away.
Four years later, my CD4 count dropped to 248 and I had to start my medication – and thank God first-line HIV treatment was already free in Malaysia by that time. I was given Stavudine, 3TC and Nevirapine and also Dapsone. Two weeks later, the doctor advises me to take SLN – a combination of the three, minus Dapsone. Lo and behold, I had rashes showing up all over my body. I am allergic to the medication. The doctor then asked me to stop taking my medication for 10 days.
Ten days later, I was given a new regime of efavirenz (Stocrin or Sustiva), Stavudine and Lamivudine. It was a great combination, as I did not experience any side effects at all. None of the efavirenz side effects, either. But in less than a year, my viral load shot up to 12k+ even though I have never missed nor taken my dosage late.
The doctor said that I had virological failure. The counselor came to me and we started talking. She iinformed me that I had to begin second-line treatment, namely, Kaletra. And what’s more, I have to pay RM9501 per month! As someone who just started working to have to fork out 4/5 of my salary just to pay for medication, it was such a shock. Why is it so expensive???? It is not a new medication, as some people have been on it for years. It's a good thing that the other two meds I am on, ddI and lamivudine,are free, or else I would be in the red every month.
I have had to tighten my belt because Kaletra is so expensive for me. I wish the drug company would lower the price, as I know that the number of people taking Kaletra is growing higher and higher – and there are many more who can’t afford the treatment they need.