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Surviving HIV: Dealing With Depression

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  • Find your Purpose

Do what excites you. Rediscover your gifts and talents — or take the time to develop new ones.

  • Quit Smoking

If you care about your health (and you wouldn’t be reading this unless you did), there may be no more an important step you can take than to ditch cigarettes. Smoking reduces a person’s lifespan more than HIV itself — and HIV-positive folks who smoke have dramatically higher odds of heart attack, lung cancer and pneumonia than people with HIV who don’t smoke.

  • Work It

A solid job isn’t just good for the piggy bank. The right work can also be good for the spirit: It can help you find a sense of purpose and even be good for your health.

  • Get Nutritious

It’s easy to overlook the importance of the food we cram into our faces every day for keeping us healthy. But good nutrition — eating both the right kinds and the right amounts of food — can bring a whole host of health benefits, including weight management, energy, a stronger immune system and more resilient organs (including heart and bones). It can even help reduce the inflammation associated with so many HIV-related health issues.

  • Take supplements Cautiously

HIV medical experts tend to agree that dietary supplements are not automatically a good idea and that it’s important to speak with your doctor before taking supplements while you’re on HIV meds. A range of supplements can potentially interact with HIV medications. This is a major reason why it so important to communicate closely with your health care team about taking them.

  • Manage Stress

It’s important to stop and recognise the signs of stress and what might be causing it, take practical steps to address it and reduce its hold on you.

Easier said than done, we know. Stress is a daily reality for plenty of us and trauma often looms large in the life history of people with HIV. But whether it’s small daily aggravations or major ordeals, stress affects not only your mood but also your quality of life.

Research suggests, for instance, that stress can influence viral load and CD4 count. Taking care of your mental health — addressing anxiety, depression, trauma and other challenges frequently seen in people with HIV — can help you manage HIV better and lead to more vibrant life. That’s why it’s important to stop and recognise the signs of stress and what might be causing it, take practical steps to address it and reduce its hold on you.

  • Heed the bigger health Picture

It’s becoming less and less common these days to hear someone say that a person “died from HIV” — that is, developed an AIDS-related opportunistic infection. Instead, when people with HIV fall ill, it tends to be from the same health problems that everyone encounters: cancer, heart problems, organ damage (to the liver, kidneys and bones) and the like.

But there’s little question that by getting regular health checkups and paying attention to potential symptoms, you can help prevent additional health issues from arising and receive prompt and effective treatment when problems emerge. There is a wealth of expert advice available and plenty to learn about potential health concerns that aren’t considered directly related to HIV.

  • Love Yourself

All people, no matter what their HIV status, deserve to be in loving, supportive relationships. Abusive, violent or unhealthy relationships decrease the quality of many people’s lives, but some fear that if they leave their partners, no one else will want them.

Reliable, judgement-free support can be hugely valuable to your health and well-being, whether it’s found through a romantic relationship, family, close friends or a support group. But it starts with accepting that you’re worthy of love and respect. Likewise, figuring out how, when and whom to tell that you’re HIV positive can feel like walking through a minefield — but it all starts by finding strength within yourself.

  • Avoid and treat STIs

HIV, of course, is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But it’s often not the only one that an HIV-positive person has to think about. Having an undetectable HIV viral load means that you have virtually no risk of transmitting HIV — but you can still acquire or transmit other STIs. They are common among people with HIV, particularly (and increasingly) gay men. But most are easy to detect and treat.

Good thing, too, because if they’re left undiagnosed and untreated, many STIs can become serious; HPV, for instance, is a major cause of cancer in HIV-positive people. There’s great information and advice available for HIV-positive people about STI prevention and treatment, whether you’re a gay man, a woman or anyone betwixt and between.

  • Curb alcohol and drug Use

Addiction and HIV have a long, close relationship. Finding a way to break them up can be one of the harder things a person with HIV will ever have to do. Few factors can reduce the length — and quality — of an HIV-positive person’s life as much as a recreational drug or heavy alcohol use.

On the flip side, recovery can completely turn a person’s life around (as well as the lives of friends and loved ones). There’s a wealth of information out there about how to seek help for addiction.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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