The costs of living with HIV: One man's story

Leonardo Momplet participates in the AIDS/LifeCycle Ride to End AIDS.

Heart disease, diabetes, cancer -- any of these chronic diseases can mean some seriously major drug bills.

So many people affected by HIV must have been relieved to hear that earlier this week, doctors announced that a two-and-a-half-year-old baby from Mississippi had been cured of the virus that causes AIDS. She was only the second person known to have been cured since the global pandemic erupted more than three decades ago.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.2 million Americans are currently infected with HIV, which costs an estimated $400,000 to treat over a lifetime. How does the uncertainty of living with the disease and paying for life-saving medication play into financial choices? Leonardo Momplet, 35, has been HIV positive for nearly eight years. 

"I've had to cancel appointments and I've had to cancel procedures because I know I can't afford to pay for it and I don't want to be in a position where I'm drowning from medical bills. You really have to choose. I might have all these things that are wrong with me, but the ones that aren't life threatening I have to push aside," says Momplet. "Keeping me alive costs a whole lot more money than I'm making."

Before his diagnosis, Momplet says he was a poor manager of his money, which he attributes to having immigrant parents.  He has experienced working low-wage jobs and having to figure out how to get treatment for HIV without health insurance.

"HIV has taught me to budget, it's taught me a lot of things," he adds.

To hear the rest of Momplet's story, click play on the audio player above.

About the author

David Lazarus is an American business and consumer columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

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