Dimitri Daskalakis works at the Positive Living Centre in Melbourne, which is where he met Bashir, a 40-year-old man who had recently immigrated to Australia.
A few months prior to them meeting, Bashir had been struck down by a series of unusual allergy attacks that manifested as bleeding lesions, swelling and a severe rash. He visited a hospital in the midst of the attacks and was diagnosed with HIV.
‘I was so angry with myself,’ he told Dimitri. ‘I am an educated man but I did not take the necessary precautions.’
After his HIV diagnosis, Bashir’s rash and swelling persisted. He was prescribed a powerful steroidA substance which is structurally similar to human sex hormones which is used for therapeutic purposes due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
, which reduced the symptoms but the moment he stopped taking it, the rash reappeared. This only added to his anxiety.
‘I felt very dirty and contaminated,’ he revealed, ‘like damaged goods.’
Blood tests showed his CD4 count had dropped from 1100 to 800, his viral loadA measurement of the quantity of HIV RNA in the blood. Viral load blood test results are expressed as the number of copies (of HIV) per milliliter of blood plasma. had jumped to 40,000 and his CD8 count had risen from 1350 to 1700. Bashir’s immune system was clearly under a huge amount of stress. It was around this time — feeling isolated and in need of lots of support — he came to see Dimitri, who told him about the services the centre provides and introduced him to Vic Perri at PLWHAPerson (or People) Living with HIV/AIDS. Victoria where he took part in a Phoenix workshop and learned all about HIV and its treatment.
Dimitri also encouraged Bashir to participate in an eight week peer support group and it was during the course of the group that he finally decided to start antiretroviralA medication or other substance which is active against retroviruses such as HIV. treatment.
‘It was very empowering to be around others who had been through a similar situation as me,’ he told Dimitri.
The rash finally went away. His viral load decreased to undetectable and his CD4 count climbed to 1200. He no longer had the ‘reminder’ symptoms that he had been experiencing.
Bashir found being on treatment to be calming and reassuring. He also told Dimitri how important it was to be informed and educated about HIV and its treatment.
‘I think striking the balance between physicians, support workers and counsellors has given me great peace of mind,’ he said.
‘I have to confess that I feel very privileged to be in Australia. People are treated with so much care here.’