What Living With HIV Costs You
HIV (or human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus which attacks the cells of your body designated to fight infections. This attack ultimately weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to different infections and diseases. HIV mostly spreads through unprotected sexual encounters as well as contact with bodily fluids and sharing of syringes/injections.
When a patient is diagnosed with HIV, it can be absolutely devastating for them. Before they even come to terms with the diagnosis, they start thinking about the treatment plan they are going to follow. And more importantly, what it might cost them.
Funny enough, HIV will not only put a strain on your pocket, but it will also take a toll on your mental and emotional health too. So much so, that you might even have productivity issues inside and outside the office.
However, there is hope.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV to date but YES, there are many treatment options available that aim at making HIV manageable and prevent it from spreading further. From thinking about what you want to have for dinner to thinking about sticking to your medication, it all gets very overwhelming for HIV patients, and Abudo understands that.
Even though the treatment cost for HIV might haunt you; knowing what options you have as well as how accessible and affordable they are is essential.
For starters, let’s talk about what living with HIV means followed by treatment options and what they mean for you financially.
Emotional Cost of Having HIV
The truth is, from diagnosis to treatment, HIV is a very emotional road. Whether it’s you that’s suffering or someone you’re close to, you should know how your feelings and your mental health will be impacted.
Ever since its first recognition in 1980, people have not known how to react, and they’ve been hush-hush about it. The undeniable connection between HIV leading to AIDS and eventually, death caused a range of emotions in people. Anxiety, fear, hopelessness, and depression are some of the problems people face daily!
Studies suggest that HIV itself increases the risk of developing mental conditions as it triggers inflammation in the entire brain, including the lining of the brain. This inflammation interferes with routine emotions and welcomes other responses characterized by denial, anger, sadness or depression, fear, and anxiety as well as stress. Not caring about the stigma attached to HIV, Abudo takes up the responsibility to inform you about the cost associated with the full range of emotions a patient may experience.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people who have HIV are twice as likely to be depressed than someone who doesn’t have the virus. Researchers suggest that this is because, after the initial diagnosis of HIV, the fear of disclosing the condition becomes all-consuming and makes people pull back from family, friends, and members of the society. The anger, the sadness you feel makes you want to remove yourself from the company of other people. While that might seem like a good option at the time, it can cause more harm than good. The more you isolate yourself, the more you won’t be able to function within a society when you come to terms with your condition. Moreover, being isolated will make you lose interest in your job, your friends, and your life before HIV.
With the emotional toll being so high, treating HIV becomes all the more crucial. We aim to provide you with information so that you can make a decision about what’s best for you.
Treatments for HIV
While there’s no cure for HIV, it is very much possible to slow down the progression of the disease by keeping the viral load low. For this purpose, doctors recommend antiretroviral therapy (ART). Regardless of how long you’ve had HIV or how healthy you are, ART is a reliable treatment option that must be administered everyday.
Some classes of anti-HIV drugs being used for treatment are:
- Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs): They turn off the protein which is needed by the virus to make copies of itself.
- Nucleoside or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs): These are defective versions of the building blocks which are required by the virus to create copies of itself.
- Protease Inhibitors (PIs): Inactivate the HIV protease – also needed to make copies of the virus.
- Entry/Fusion Inhibitors: Block the entry of HIV into CD4 T cells.
- Integrase Inhibitors: They disable protein integrase, which is used to insert genetic material into CD4 T cells.
Mostly, these medications are used in combination to provide a potent treatment plane — one which ensures that HIV does not develop immunity towards the drugs.
If you’re currently not seeking any treatment (bad idea!!), it should be started immediately! Especially if any of the following situations take place:
- You develop severe symptoms
- Your CD4 T cell count drops below 350
- You’re pregnant
- You’re being treated for hepatitis B or C
- You’ve got HIV related kidney disease
With most drugs come side effects, and ART isn’t any different. Various side effects occur after the start of treatment, some of which may include:
- Heart diseases
- Weak bones
- Higher blood sugar
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
Having understood the various treatment options, the question that pops up in most minds is that what is the treatment cost for HIV?
Well, nothing comes free, and HIV treatments are no exception. There is a cost attached to each of the treatment options available. Here’s a general overview of the treatment cost for HIV:
Treatment Cost for HIV:
HIV drugs cost a lot of money. There’s absolutely no way around that. The average treatment cost for HIV for one year is approximately $14,000 – $20,000. A lifetime of taking antiretroviral therapy means that a patient might be paying well over $400,000 throughout their life. Unfortunately, the cost is the most significant barrier in the care and treatment of the disease. Research suggests that only half of the people from low-income families are receiving proper treatment. Most can’t afford it, and that’s a contributing factor for why many don’t disclose their condition to anyone. The good news, however, is that the entire cost doesn’t have to come out of your pocket.
There are multiple resources which can help you pay for your treatment though. 3 types of insurances and health care plans you can get in the US are as follows:
- Private Insurance: Private insurance can be acquired in two ways. It can be acquired through your place of work, or it can be purchased individually. Private insurance is also available at the health insurance marketplace.
- Federal Resources: Some people cannot afford to buy private insurance, or their workplace doesn’t exactly cover the cost of their HIV treatment. If that’s the case with you, you don’t need to worry because there are several federal resources which provide you with health care and insurance. Several of those resources are:
- The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program
- The Health Centre Program
- Veterans Program
- Federal Programs for Women and Children
- Non-Federal Resources:
There are patient assistance programs which are offered by different pharmaceutical companies for a minimal fee. At times they even provide free of cost medication to low-income people living without insurance or under insured patients. This benefit is offered to people who do not qualify for aid programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Every pharmaceutical company has its qualifying criteria, which allows them to select the best and most needy candidate.
In Canada, however, there is no universal cost coverage of HIV treatment, so it’s up to the provincial governments to decide their healthcare. All provinces within Canada recognize the cost of antiretroviral therapy and have various insurance plans which help patients to cover the cost. The payment plans for these insurances depend upon the age and the income of the patient. There are other financial assistance programs for HIV patients throughout Canada, which can help different types of patients to reduce the cost of their medications.
We’ve equipped you with all the necessary information so that you know which treatment and payment options are available for you. But remember, nothing can replace your emotional stability and you shouldn’t take that lightly. Money will come and go, options are available for you but don’t let your mental health suffer because of this. While it might not seem like it, emotional cost of HIV could be even higher than the treatment cost for HIV.
So our final advice to you is: do not succumb to the stress of finances, take care of yourself first and then find a plan that works for you.