10 Keys to Living Well with HIV
Currently, living with HIV has become a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or hypertension, but it’s still important to know the experience of those who have gone through the diagnosis and adaptation process in order to make things easier for people who are starting their lives with this condition.
Because of this, people like the ones who write on the website thebody.com dedicate a large part of their work to talk about their experiences living with HIV, besides the fact that they are journalists, activists or doctors. With this in mind, contributors Myles Helfand and JD Davids propose 10 key actions that will help you live well with HIV.
1. Find a purpose. Nothing is more discouraging than living life without a sense of purpose. After an HIV diagnosis it’s important to re-discover your talents or develop new ones, seizing the moment as an opportunity for personal renewal.
2. Stop smoking. The damage tobacco has on the body is well known, as well as how difficult it is to quit smoking. However, studies on people with HIV have shown that tobacco reduces life expectancy even more than HIV, so this could be the moment you were waiting for to quit this habit definitively.
3. Work. The right job (that one which will motivate you and bring satisfaction) is not only good because it will provide a living, but it will also make you think less about HIV and will remind you that this virus does not affect your abilities as a productive person.
4. Nurture yourself. We’ve heard many times how important it is to eat well, but this is especially important when you live with HIV. A healthy diet will strengthen your immune system and will keep you from developing other preventable diseases, which would lead you to taking more medications which could interfere with your HIV treatment.
5. Be careful with supplements. If you usually take vitamin supplements (as many people do as part of their daily routine), it’s best that you ask your health care team to be sure of two things: one, that the product you purchase is actually providing nutrients, and two, that what you are taking does not interfere with your antiretroviral treatment.
6. Manage stress. Stress can influence on your viral load increasing and bring your defense cells down (CD4). If you have anxiety, depression or feel that you cannot handle stress, seek help, either with a professional or with other people with HIV.
7. Think of your health as a whole. Currently, HIV on its own does cause health problems on people who are under antiretroviral treatment. This is why it’s important to take care of your body the same way anyone would: get regular checkups and pay attention to any symptom, so that you may identify problems that your health care team can help you resolve.
8. Love yourself. Everybody deserves to be loved, however, some people with HIV could tolerate abusive relationships (either romantic or family) because they think that, if they go away, with their health condition, nobody else will love them. Remember your value as a person and develop love towards yourself.
9. Avoid and treat STIs. It’s true that if you achieve an undetectable viral load, there is no risk of transmitting HIV, however other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are still a risk for you and your partner or partners. In order to prevent STIs, use a condom, and if you realize that you have one, seek treatment, most of them can be resolved safely.
10. Limit the use of alcohol and drugs. Recreational drugs and alcohol abuse are among the factors that can reduce life expectancy for people with HIV. If you still consume these substances after your diagnosis, seek support and you’ll see that becoming free from what could be an addiction will provide a positive spin on your life.
The list of recommendations is long and some of them are easier said than done. For this reason, take it step by step and celebrate the achievements you have in each one of them. After all, the aim is to improve your life.
If you have questions regarding your HIV status, at AHF Latin America and The Caribbean, we have free screening tests. Visit us at the nearest office in your country or write to us via Whatsapp.