I have a confession, I am a medication hoarder.
I first started taking medication in the early 1990s after finally finding a doctor who was willing to see me. At the time I had great health insurance, but doctor after doctor refused to see me. Much has changed since then.
What hasn’t changed is my fear of losing access to care and treatment. HIV has lived with me for almost 35 years and during this time I have lost access to care and treatment a few times. Twenty-five years ago, I was homeless with multiple physical and mental health conditions but no access to care and treatment. This was a horrific time in my life and one that is difficult to talk about.
Thankfully, people diagnosed today, are connected to care and treatment almost immediately and it is up to the person diagnosed to “keep coming back”. Retention in care is still a struggle but has gotten better.
For the past 10 years, my pharmacy delivered my medications to my front door and sometimes they delivered them a few days early, which allowed me to save medication for a rainy day. After a few years, I had a small stockpile of medication. I have always been fearful of losing access to care and treatment so having this little stockpile made me feel better. It was like having a giant personal safety net that gave me a sense of comfort and security.
I recently switched medications and one pill, I used to take four different HIV medications as my HIV built up a resistance. There was a period in my life when I was self-destructive and basically a mess. I didn’t take my medications as prescribed and often didn’t even make it to the doctor’s office. I am truly grateful to have moved past this phase and grateful for the people who helped me along the way.
Anyway, I started this new medication, which is actually a combination of two of the pills I had been taking, but I stopped all other HIV medications. The new medication seems to be working as my health is stable and I have no real side effects (time will tell).
So now I realized, I wouldn’t need all the medication I had been stockpiling, however, I struggled with the thought of getting rid of them. What if I lost access to health insurance, what if I couldn’t’ get my medications on a regular basis. I gave this a great deal of thought and finally convinced myself that donating it could possible save someone’s life. I reaffirmed to myself that I have had steady access to care and treatment for the past 10 years. Now I needed to have faith that I will continue to have access to care and treatment. It took a couple weeks but I finally found the courage to let them go.
So, as the pictures show, I boxed up all the medications and donated them to AID for AIDS International.
I truly hope the medication helps save someone’s life.