Taking the tablets

When Appeal Court Judge Edwin Cameron started taking antiretroviral drugs in November 1997, they were ‘€œhorrifically expensive, difficult to take and narrow in scope’€, he says.

One of the three drugs he took each day, a protease inhibitor called Norvir, had ‘€œvile   side-effects’€, and consisted of a daily dose of 12 pills that had to be kept chilled at all times.

‘€œBut,’€ says Cameron, ‘€œthe drugs clearly saved my life. My immune system had all but collapsed. I had PCP (a kind of pneumonia) in both lungs, systemic thrush and had lost 10% of my body weight.

‘€œWithin two weeks of taking the drugs, I could feel a miracle happening within my body. I felt the virus abate, and my appetite and vital forces returned. Within four weeks, I managed to climb Table Mountain.’€

Today, the development of new drugs means that taking ARVs has become ‘€œa chronic disease that is a lot easier to control than insulin-dependent diabetes,’€ he says.

Cameron is now on two drugs, Combivir (a combination of drugs 3TC and AZT) and nevirapine. He takes two tablets twice a day and drinks lots of water with each dose.

‘€œThis is one of the easiest regimens to take. The tablets are small and can be taken on a full or empty stomach.

‘€œOn one level, taking the drugs is just part of your life. But on another level, there is drug-taking fatigue. You do think sometimes ‘€˜is this what I have to do for the rest of my life?’€™ But I have managed to keep going. You can miss one or two doses a month. If you miss more than that, you are in trouble.

‘€œI have remained completely healthy for the past six years and live a full and productive life, which I owe to the drugs, a supportive and loving environment and the first rate medical supervision of my doctor, Dr Dave Johnson.’€


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