HIV Longevity Still Fighting…


Side Effects

Posted by Vaughn Ripley

Let's take a moment and talk about the confounded side effects of HIV and its associated medication. Sometimes side effects are unavoidable. And, we usually weigh the pros and cons... For instance, my current triple drug cocktail gives me diarrhea on a daily basis. This is a pain in the ass (no pun intended)! However, it is acceptable when you consider the fact that my other option is to die a slow and painful death... On the other hand, when I was getting Peripheral Neuropathy from DDI, I considered this a bad and dangerous side effect that I eliminated by switching medications. The picking and choosing of the lesser of two evils is obviously a personal choice...

Here are many of the side effects that I am currently experiencing, or have experienced in the past:

This is a battle that I deal with on a daily basis. My gastro-Dr. prescribed Pamine Forte, which I took for a while. This appeared to subside my … ahem … issues. However, it was a pain to get the pills refilled, because my doc wanted me to keep visiting him. Juggling life is painful and throwing in frequent visits to a gastroenterologist wasn’t at the top of my list. So, I take Immodium AD (over the counter) and it seems to work just as well.

My daily regiment includes drinking a fiber supplement (Konsyl) every morning and every night. I know that most of you are like, doesn’t fiber loosen your stool? Well… Yes… But, it also helps to regulate and control your bowels. For whatever reason, I have found that it is better to have regularity… At least than I can predict my outcomes.

Also, I carry two Immodium pills in my pockets at all times. I have found that you can easily find yourself in remote places without a proverbial pot to piss in, and this helps curb things. In addition to the ones in my pocket, I keep a bottle of the little green gems (Immodium) in: my backpack, desk drawer at work and glovebox of all of my vehicles. Call me a Boy Scout, but I feel the need to be prepared

I think that’s enough talk about the runs.

Peripheral Neuropathy
In case you don’t know what it is, peripheral neuropathy is extremely painful and disturbing. My experience was tingling in my feet that feels similar to your foot falling asleep. Along with this, my toes became so sensitive that a simple stub against a shoe or something else on the floor would drop me to my knees in pain and anguish.

One of the worst experiences of my life was when I was sent to a neurologist to figure out my foot problem. He inserted long thick needles into my foot, ankle, calf and shin and then sent electrical shocks through my muscles to determine if nerve damage had occurred, and/or what my problem was.

Unfortunately, all of this severe probing didn’t uncover anything, but it did teach me to fear neurologists!

Dry Eyes
Over time, my eyes have become dryer. I’m not sure if this is purely allergy related, or if it stems from some of the medicine that I take. That is one of the many problems associated with HIV related side effects… Some of them could be happening for reasons other than medicines, etc.

I have found that eye drops help a lot with this problem, if I use them on a regular basis. Better than the old school Visine dropper, the newer single-serving droppers seem to be better for me. They don’t have any preservatives that you will find in a typical bottle. I use drops morning and night. During the day, if my eyes are bothering me I will dose them. For this reason, I keep eye drop packs in my desk drawer at work.

Sensitivity to Sunlight
This one comes and goes. When it comes, it comes with a vengeance… I am talking to the point of not being able to keep my eyes open while outdoors. I usually attack this problem by having extra dark sunglasses that cover a big area. Wrap-around style are very nice and eliminate some of the Sun creep that you get in the sides.

I would like to darken the tint on my vehicles, but Maryland has strict laws about this… I am currently looking into having an eye doctor write me a waiver so I can tint the truck and minivan…

Rashes, Hives and Other Skin Problems
Itchy skin comes and goes for me. I think that I have naturally sensitive skin, so it is tough to say what comes from what. I sometimes get little sections of hives that are itchy and bothersome. I also get dry skin, mostly during the winter.

This one may or may not be related to medicine… I mean, life is tough enough as it is… Throw hemophilia into the mix with HIV, medication and everything else associated with my health and you get a depressing combination. In the past I have occasionally been so depressed that I considered suicide. I always fought through it and looked toward a brighter day. For the most part, I consider suicide a weak solution. I love a challenge and when life is getting me down, it is no exception.

I’ve never taken anti-depressant, and I can’t imagine doing so. I’m not a proponent of all of these drugs that have been introduced to help depressed folks… I’m sure that there are many of you who would disagree with me on this point. I’m not knocking people who take them, I’m simply saying that I choose not to.

Vomiting and Nausea
This is a tough one. I think that everyone experiences this one from some degree or another… With DDI I was vomiting out of control. Sometimes, to this day, I vomit when I am taking medicine. Mostly I am able to hold it back. I will occasionally be coughing and it turns into a violent cough that ends with a vomit reaction.

Dunno how to cure this one, but I find that willpower and concentration can help.

Random Aches and Pains
Muscle soreness… Arthritic feelings… Joint aches…

More than likely, these come more from my active lifestyle and past mistakes.

Sleep Problems
I rarely experience this, but I have had some rough nights. Sometimes you simply can’t sleep. This is probably related to something other than medicines, but I included it none-the-less.

I like chamomile tea at bed time and this helps me to go down nice and easy.

I love nightmares. Seriously! Some of my medicines have given me some extremely realistic and vivid nightmares. I dig it. Even though I love them, I thought I would include this as a potential side effect… Especially because not everyone enjoys them as much as me.

Night Sweats
One of my old medicines (I can’t remember which) really gave me horrible night sweats. These days, I get them once-in-a-while, but they are far and few between. Plus, they aren’t nearly as bad as they were in the past.

Night sweats can be so terrible that you can’t sleep. Plus, the bed gets all stinky and impossible to sleep in

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Trouble Waking in the Morning
Who doesn’t have this problem? I mean… Some mornings are simply tougher than others to get out of bed! Is it a side effect of medicine or life? Who knows…

Loss of Fat in the Butt and Cheeks
This one has bothered me in the past… I mean, every guy wants a little meat in his behind. Chicks look at your butt… That’s a fact. I want something there to see.

As far as my other cheeks, it is similarly painful to see the gaunt fatless features of my face. I think that most of this problem came from my hepatitis medicine that I was on years ago. It rid my body of Hep-C, so it can’t be all bad… However, it also stripped the fat, which gave my face definition, etc. Now I look like a wasting-away human being and this bugs me, because I am more healthy now than I have ever been in my life!

Excess Fat in the Belly and Upper Back
As if it wasn’t bad enough to take the fat from my butt, the medicines seem to have put it in my belly! WTF?? Just like butts, chicks dig abs. I pride myself in a fit and strong body, yet my distended abdominal region is a rascally sucker that pisses me off! I do a lot of hard work on my abs (1,200+ crunches per workout) and they still poke out some.

One thing that I have found useful, is working the transverse abdominis muscle. This is a muscle that wraps around your core underneath your abs and obliques. You can work it out by doing stomach vacuums and 2-point bridges among other things. I have found that the more effort that I put into this muscle region, the better my abs look and the more pulled in they become. Give it a go!

Gas and Bloated Belly
Gas might simply be a side effect of the Immodium. I dunno about you, but I get the farts a couple of hours after I take Immodium.

Sore Throat
Many mornings I wake with a sore throat. Usually it is minor and goes away after breakfast. Sometimes it is more serious and I take a couple of sprays of Chloraseptic to help soothe it. That’s about all there is to say about that…

Excess Phlegm
Who knows why I included this… I would swear that I have copious amounts of snot that shouldn’t be there. Does that mean it’s from HIV or medicine?? No… But, I just thought I would mention it.

See ya next time!

p.s. This post is a chapter in my blog-book, The Secret to Longevity. Checkout my similar posts here: Or, follow the goodie trail:
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HIV Medication

Posted by Vaughn Ripley

When I was first diagnosed with HIV, there were no medicines available to combat this deadly disease. At the end of the 80's AZT became available. Early on I didn't take any of the medicines that were becoming available, but it was apparent that I would need them. Since I started on meds, I have ingested a ton of HIV and AIDS related medicines and homeopathic remedies.

I started out on AZT (Zidovudine) like most of the HIV+ folks. I also dabbled in DDI (Didanosine or Videx); which gave me projectile vomit fits and peripheral neuropathy among other things. Since then I have tried most of the medicines available today... My latest drug cocktail consists of:

  • Sustiva (efavirenz) is in the category of HIV medicines called non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs). Sustiva prevents the cells from creating new virus and reduces the amount of virus in your body. Sustiva is used in combination with other drugs to treat HIV (hence drug cocktail). Normally, it is combined with two nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (called NRTIs or "Nukes").
  • Viread (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) is a NRTI (nucleotide as opposed to a nucleoside) type of medicine used in combination with other medicines. VIREAD blocks HIV reverse transcriptase (enzyme) that is needed for HIV to multiply. VIREAD lowers the viral load.
  • Epivir (amivudine) is also an NRTI (nucleoside) prevents HIV from altering the genetics of T-cells. This prevents the cells from producing virus and lowers the viral load.

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About AIDS Medication
Instead of writing a long dissertation on medicines that are available, I decided to point you in the right direction... This web site covers more than you ever imagined about HIV medicines:

Importance of Daily Medication Ingestion
I'm sure you've heard it all before... "You MUST take your medicine on a regular basis!" But, most of us lead lives where this is hard to do sometimes. As you know, your body can build up a tolerance to some of the HIV medicines available today. Most of the tolerances are enhanced by taking time off from the drug. Even worse, some drugs (like Sustiva) stay in your body longer than other ones and can be dangerous without the additional drugs from your triple drug therapy.

In order to enhance your drug experience and to make sure that you are making the most of medicines you ingest, make sure that you take them on a regular basis that is laid out by your prescribing doctor.

The easiest way that I have found to make sure that I always take my medicines is to keep a pill fob (small metal or plastic cylinder) filled with one days dosage. Gone are the days of 22 pills and or horse-sized pills. With today's small dosages, you can easily fit them into a single fob. I also keep a weekly vitamin container (that you can pickup at GNC or pharmacy store) for times when I go on "overnighters" or vacations. If you don't dog on fobs or medicine containers, Zip-Lock makes a snack-sized bag, which is a half-height sandwich bag. Get a box of those and use one for your medicines.

The key to taking your pills day-in-day out is to always be prepared. If you sometimes stay out all night without warning, then you should carry a dose with you at all times! Easy-peasy!

Vomiting and How to Control It
Many of the medicines that we have to take taste terrible and/or make us feel like vomiting. Over time, I found that you can control your vomit reflex by remaining calm and focusing on avoiding it. The main key is to stop telling yourself, Oh God, I'm gonna throw up! Try to avert your thoughts and think about something different. You may find this hard to do in the early stages, but just like anything else in your body, your brain can improve and strengthen with practice.

Remember that vomiting is simply the bodies reaction to a message from the brain. Calm yourself before taking your medicine by breathing deeply and meditating. Once you have reached a calm state, take your medicine with a focus on good things. By controlling your body and staying calm you can avoid vomiting.

Think! While Taking Your Medicine
I can't reiterate enough how important positive thinking is while enduring HIV. I have found that a good mental attitude is just as powerful (if not more so) as a top-notched doctor and good drugs. In the past I would take my pills thinking, this is prolonging my inevitable death. Then I would question why my CD-4 counts weren't improving. Looking back, I realize that I was taking 22 pills approximately every four hours of the day. So, five or six time each and every day I would chant the death mantra. Finally, I realized that this was part of my problem. I decided to do a test and start thinking more positive about my drug ingestion. I turned my death mantra into a life mantra.Every time that I took pills, I followed this procedure:

1. Calm myself with breathing and meditation;
2. Focus on the good side of the drugs;

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. While taking each pill, I would chant things like, "This pill is making me stronger and healthier."

After a while of doing this, I noticed that I was feeling better and healthier. My levels went up and I reduced my vomiting. All-in-all, I had created a better me and the medicines were working! Try it out for yourself.

I should mention that in later years, I adapted this process and created what I consider to be an even more robust life mantra. You can read more about this in one of my upcoming Blogs titled, "The War of the Body."

p.s. This post is a chapter in my blog-book, The Secret to Longevity. Checkout my similar posts here: Or, follow the goodie trail:
Previous Previous Secret ArticleNext Secret Article Next

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Who Am I

Posted by Vaughn Ripley

Who am I and Why am I Qualified to Write This Here Blog?

I’m Vaughn Ripley. I was born with a blood disorder called, hemophilia. I get injections of Factor VIII (pronounced factor eight) to stop severe bleeding that comes from my hemophilia. The blood products that I get to save my life bring lots of baggage with them... Along with a plethora of viruses and sicknesses, I have gotten Hepatitis C and HIV from tainted blood.

I was diagnosed as HIV+ back in December of 1986. For this reason, I’m one of the longest living HIV+ people on the planet

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I have dealt with many sicknesses through the years and tons of side effects of HIV medication.

My recent blood work revealed that my T-cell count is greater than 550 and my viral load is undetectable. I attribute much of this to my talented doctors and medicine intake. However, I also feel that much of my wellness comes from a powerful mental attitude and stringent focus on a health-filled fitness program.

My experiences and challenges have amalgamated to make me the right person to write this Blog... Read on and hopefully you will agree!

If you would like to find out more information about me, visit my personal web site at:

p.s. This post is a chapter in my blog-book, The Secret to Longevity. Checkout my similar posts here: Or, follow the goodie trail:
Previous Previous Secret Article  —  Next Secret Article Next

If you dig, don't forget to share this article:


Introduction to the Secret

Posted by Vaughn Ripley

I am an HIV+ hemophiliac. I was infected through a bad blood transfusion of Factor VIII sometime in mid-1980.

More than 22,000,000 people have died from AIDS.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) web site an estimated 40,000,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS as of the end of 2003. And, approximately 1 of every 100 adults aged 15 to 49 are HIV-infected. An estimated 5,000,000 new HIV infections occurred worldwide during 2003 (that is approximately 14,000 new infections every day).

In 2003 alone, HIV/AIDS-associated illnesses caused the deaths of approximately 3,000,000 people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as of 2003 nearly 950,000 United States residents are living with the HIV infection.

According to the National Hemophilia Foundation, the estimate for the number of people in the United States with hemophilia is approximately 20,000. They approximate that 50 percent of the hemophilia population in the United States contracted HIV in the 1980’s! They also estimate a total number of HIV+ hemophiliacs at somewhere around 10,000. It is estimated that over 4,200 members of the HIV/hemophilia community have died since the onset of the crisis; this leaves approximately 5,800 of us still “alive and kicking” and hoping to stay that way until a cure comes along.

Quite a while ago I decided to write a book about how I have managed to live so long with this deadly disease. My book was going to be titled, Longevity Despite HIV - The Secret to Living a Long, Healthy and Happy Life In the Face of HIV or AIDS

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. It didn't take me long to change my mind about a published book. My next idea was to make it an e-book and make it available for free to the world. This idea lasted a little while and I completed my outline and compiled some ideas and information... Until recently, that was the direction I was going with this project. The more that I thought about it, the more I realized that I had to do this in a Blog environment.

Blogging is new to me, even though I have been writing all of my life. In addition to my writing, I contribute a good amount of posts to many online discussion forums. I figured it was time to start a Blog.

My decision to Blog comes from the fact that I have more to talk about than simply my book idea. So, I decided to create the Blog and make a category called, "The Secret." Under this category I will fulfill my dream of writing my book about longevity. While I am working on this project, I will continue to put my other ideas relating to HIV into written word on my Blog.

That's it in a nutshell... I hope you dig it!

p.s. This post is a chapter in my blog-book, The Secret to Longevity. Checkout my similar posts here: Or, follow the goodie trail:
Previous Previous Secret ArticleNext Secret Article Next

If you dig, share this article:


Hello World!

Posted by Vaughn Ripley

HIV Longevity is finally open to the world! It is ironic that my Blog would be created and started on Friday the 13th

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