Anthony Carter

The High Cost of Being HIV-Positive

Filed By Anthony Carter | May 25, 2011 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: financial costs, gay men, health care reform, HIV pill regimen, HIV/AIDS, spending habits

First fact about HIV: It will cost you money and time.
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When there are attempts made to decrease the infection rates, the financial costs are never discussed.

Remember - a smart slut is a safe slut (thanks GS, my favorite Brit). As I mentioned previously, I had to soldier on alone when it was discovered that perhaps I had been exposed to the virus. I got tested the first dozen or so times by myself with no physical or emotional support.

When I moved to California, all of this changed overnight.

I began dating and meeting people who were honest about their status. I began going to clinics and facilities with friends and dates where I literally held hands with them while blood was being drawn and t-cell count was being shared.

HIV is a lifelong partner that will need to be managed and will affect every life decision.

Secondly, it costs money - a whole lot of money - and many missed days of work. Time spent going back and forth to the doctor and having the pressure of daily pill-taking is a great deal to manage even if you have a support network that is kind, loving, and thoughtful.

Nobody ever discusses that this is a most time-consuming and financially draining way to live.

I love the ads that the pharmaceutical companies show with all of the gorgeous perfect men having gorgeous, perfect lives, all via a one-pill-a-day regimen. This is great, if you can afford the once-daily pill. It sends the message that being infected is a glamorous, chic, and very affordable style.

When you are on a regimen that cuts into the funding of the trip to Europe, cable TV, pedicures, gym memberships, facials, and, of course the latest and greatest brought to us via Prada, things look a little different.

By not playing it safe, you risk infection and a lifetime of doctor visits, pills, and possibly some serious health issues and, of course, the psychological upheaval that is a part of the chronic disease architecture.

There have been studies done that show that people would rather get their hair done then pay for condoms that could save their lives. If you want a great deal, contact the 99 cents store, where you can get a box of 12 condoms for a dollar - If that ain't a deal, what is?

I enjoy fine food, theatre, and the movies, and I live for a day of beauty (haircut/shave/pedicure and manicure). While this is not expensive by any means - some of my peeps spend hundreds per month drinking - it would be severely limited if I had to purchase meds and take time off from work, which means I lose money.

No fun.

The smart slut knows that in this world, we are not supposed to want or have everything, and yet this smart slut did figure it out. So can you.

One of the things we have been assigned and gleefully taken on is the worship of all things fabulous and show-stopping. What could possibly be more show-stopping than being sexually responsible and looking great at the same time?

I am not referring here to the latest duds and whatever Madison Avenue has decided to peddle to us. Instead, I am talking about decisions that make great financial sense.

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Thanks for writing this piece, an element which is often overlooked.

I recall when I was first diagnosed, and having just started a new job, how uncomfortable it was to request time off to go to the doctor or for labwork. When it came time to beginning treatment, because I'm prone to some of the adverse medication side-effects, I disclosed to my employer that I needed to take 2 weeks off to begin and adjust to newly prescribed HIV-medications that left me hugging a toilet and sleeping on the bathroom floor. That's when my world changed.

Thanks for this. Even as someone really interested in LGBT rights and the movement overall, I don't have a huge background at all on HIV/AIDS, and it's always nice to learn more. I hear so much about the psychological, physical and emotional stress that HIV/AIDS places on victims, and while that information is incredibly important and worthwhile, I don't hear as much about the economic side of being positive. Thanks.

I've often thought that the "fear tactic" we should be using in our HIV prevention campaigns is the fear of not being able to afford drinks with friends on Saturday night. Imagine, being saddled at a young age with co-pays, doctor appointments and surprise expenses for the rest of your freaking life.

When I think of all the costs I've incurred living with HIV... I could have afforded a much better wardrobe by now! Maybe even a car I wasn't still paying on.

Thanks for sharing this, Anthony.

Thankyou for writing this, Anthony!! As a gay man who has been living POZ for the past 19 years of my life, I can appreciate and relate to where you're coming from. My only hope is that the younger LGBT folk (those who, thanks to advances in treatment .. never had to experience the horror of watching dear friends drop like flies in the early days of the HIV pandemic..) will read this in vast numbers and take the appropriate actions to protect themselves.

Anthony, I think when we first started talking about the subject, it made me realize that MANY people don't fully comprehend the amount of money it costs on keeping up your health. As someone pointed out above, perhaps the scare tactic SHOULD be, "Guess what, gang... you won't be able to party hard with your friends, because you've gotta save money to pay for meds." It baffles me the amount of apathy running rampant in our community. I wish people would understand, a pill doesn't solve the problem, letting you run worry-free through the streets...a pill keeps you stable, and that's not always error-proof.