At 49 years of age, Carlos* is just one year older than I. We met in February when Denise Main, our co-founder and board president, and I visited the San Pedro Sula clinic in Honduras.
“It wasn’t always this way,” Carlos says referring to the loss of fatty tissue in his face. “I used to go fishing with a harpoon,” he continues, “but now I don’t because I can’t wear the mask.”
Siempre Unidos Diagnosed at the age of 31, Carlos was one of the very first individuals effectively treated for AIDS in Honduras. He was near death when he started on the only available antiretroviral regimen provided by Siempre Unidos in early 2003. One of the medications caused lipodystrophy, an irreversible form of facial wasting in certain people. “The medication caused this change in my face, only in my face. This has affected me a lot.”
“I look like an old person,” he says. “I was driving a motorcycle taxi and some young girls shouted. One of them shouts at her mother, ‘look at the old man!’”
“People at Siempre Unidos don’t look at me differently,” he adds.
Carlos has a wife and together they have two children who are now 8 and 4 years old. He is able to support them with his taxi driving. He speaks lovingly of his family. Yet his conversation returns to what he calls his disfigurement. “I would like to recover my face.”
Fortunately for those more recently diagnosed with HIV, newer, less toxic anti-retroviral medications are available. They will not suffer this side effect.
– Amy Rankin-Williams
* a pseudonym