30 January 2011

Revising My Story

I started this blog as the story of one person’s experience of living with AIDS, shortly after the ninth anniversary of my diagnosis. The story starts with my diagnosis and a refusal to speculate on the source of my infection. I find myself less and less satisfied with that as a starting point, as my baseline CD4+ count attests to the fact that it all started long before that. But when?

I want to be very careful not to turn this revision into a search for someone on whom to lay blame. I don’t think of blaming anyone for my HIV infection. This might be odd, as I have certainly (in the distant pre-condom past) had some pretty negative reactions to catching other STIs from people who probably knew they had them, despite the fact that most of those were pretty easily dispatched with. We’ll have to leave aside the HPV, which revisits.

So finding the when without being tempted to pinpoint the who. I may just realize who the who was in the process, but let me reaffirm that this is about completing a timeline and not assigning blame.

Here’s a first possibility.

Just before Christmas in 1981 (I’m detecting a terribly unfortunate problem with the month of December that keeps recurring in my life!), I went to the Emergency at one of the English hospitals with a throat that seemed to be closing up. The doctor I saw had seen me before, and seems to have made his diagnosis based on my file rather than my symptoms. He decided I had gonorrhoea and gave me a prescription for antibiotics that I needed to go to a pharmacy to fill. As it turns out, the prescription cost me most of the cash I had (probably less than $10), which was a terrible tragedy during the holiday period in an era before bank machines.

Most. Miserable. Christmas. Ever.

To add insult to injury, the antibiotics seemed to have made things worse, not better. When I went back to get the results of the throat swab, a more contrite doctor (the same one with a new attitude) announced that the gonorrhoea test was negative. The new idea he had was that I had mononucleosis, which in retrospective interpretation could have been my period of primo-infection.

Now I have to reflect on the credibility of that possibility. If we recall, my baseline CD4+ count was 4. If this was my primo-infection, it was a full sixteen years earlier. I would have had to have a rather strong resistance to last that long before finally developing an opportunistic infection, no?

I always thought that one of two things would be true about the timing of my infection: that I was infected early and held out for a long time, or that I was infected late and my system collapsed. This version would suggest the former.

I’ll have to do some more thinking.


David McHep c said...

Hi Ken,

Did you ever think that it may have been thrush of the oesophagus. I had that several times in my early days of infection. It made my throat so so that I could not even swallow saliva. Of course pills were the cure so that made treatment fun. I just wonder because I've been told that if you have a fungal infection and you take antibiotics, the fungal infection will get worse.

Just a thought.


Ken Monteith said...

I don't know if you get thrush as part of primo-infection, or if it goes away on its own after having been aggravated by antibiotics.

My personal story to date having started at such a late stage, these are things I never had to know for me....