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