Are Prescriptions the Perfect Answer? By Kayla Howard, Spelman College

By February 20, 2020 Uncategorized 2 Comments

The advancement of technology has made great strides in the research of medical sciences. Doctors are now able to manage illnesses that would have previously been considered fatal. Treatment of HIV relies very heavily on the use of prescription drugs. Common medications include Ziagen, Videx, Emtriva, and Zerit. With them, HIV+ patients can live just as long as someone without HIV. However, this does come without sacrifice. The quality of life is sometimes sacrificed, due to the effects of the medicine.

Many patients experience manageable side effects, however, some prove to be very harmful. Some of the typical side effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, increase in cholesterol, rashes, numb or painful hands or feet, loss of appetite, headache, and fatigue. Lipodystrophy is defined as a change in the fat in the body (either loss or gain). It is typically caused by older HIV drugs, that are less common nowadays. This condition is the cause of the gaunt face that used to be commonly associated with those with HIV. This difference in appearance could sometimes make someone’s status obvious, especially to someone who has known them for years. Though this is not seen as often today, there are countless other side effects that impact the lives of many HIV+ people on a daily basis.

In online medical blog, one woman reported extremely vivid, disturbing nightmares for weeks at the beginning of her treatment. Later in her treatment, she also recalled serious memory loss, which made it difficult to maintain her job. One woman said she became very suicidal. It is crazy to think that something that should be keeping you alive is causing you to consider doing just the opposite. Another recently diagnosed person, discussed the depression and anxiety he developed. His doctor’s encouraged him to live a normal life and be sexually active, but he is just no longer interested. Along with the physical changes HIV can cause, there are many emotional and social consequences as well.

Sometimes people’s live are changed, not by the diagnoses, but rather the medicine that is meant to keep them alive and healthy. Many who experience severe side effects with their treatment often ask themselves if their struggles are worth it. Without treatment, patients who receive the HIV diagnoses are only expected to live 6-8 years before being diagnosed with AIDS. Once diagnosed with AIDS, patients are given a mere 2 years to live at most, so doctor’s biggest concern is that patients never quit treatment altogether. The progression of medicine has come a long way, but still has a very long way to go, so that a status does not equate to a decrease in quality of life.

For more information on this topic, go to


  • Jahi Flowers says:

    Many of my family members’ lives have changed after going on medication regularly, but many of them feel as if the medication has more of a hold on their lives than the diseases and chronic pain that created a need for it. As a psychology major, I often wonder whether the psychological health of the patient is more negatively affected by their medication or the initial diagnosis.

  • Nicholas Arosemena says:

    I struggle with what to think in a scenario like this. The side effects some patients experience are terrible and more than anyone should have to go through just to live, but oftentimes those side effects are the price of life when the person in question has contracted a life-threatening disease.

    On the other hand, we do live in a society where the pharmaceutical industry has demonstrated an emphasis on profits and results over the concern for patients. This leads us to question how many of the side effects are truly necessary versus the ones that could be fixed with a bit more care on the part of the pharmacist, or could be mitigated on the part of the psychologist.

Leave a Reply