When I sit down for Orientation with a newly diagnosed patient, at some point, I lean forward and say,

“We’ve come a long way in treating persons with HIV since I started here in 1994. If you can come to the doctor 2-4 times per year, and if you will take your medicine the way you are supposed to, you can live a full life. If you don’t hear anything else I say today, I want you to remember that.”

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Two big “ifs.” If you can come to the doctor, if you can take your medicine . . .

But if you live 1, 2, 3 or more hours from the clinic like 50% of our patients, getting to the doctor can be difficult to say the least. If you don’t have a car you have to depend on a family member or friend to drive you. If you don’t have any money, you can’t afford the gas. You know public transportation is awful.

If you struggle with clinical depression, or some other mental illness, or you don’t have a routine in your daily life, remembering appointments or taking meds can be difficult.

If you use illegal drugs (cocaine, meth), taking your medicine correctly is almost impossible.

If you miss a few doses of HIV meds here and there, the virus becomes resistant to those meds. Keep that up and your options run out.

Friends and family can make a difference. Give a ride to the doctor. Ask your loved one if they have taken their medicine today. Encourage, love, and listen to them. Make sure they know they know they are not alone.

Two big ifs. If you can come to the doctor, and if you can take your medicine correctly, you can live.

And if you want to help a friend or family member, you can.