Posts Tagged ‘prevention’
We are sharing 25 things you should know about HIV (and probably don’t) over 25 days. Today in Day #2. We have identified these 25 things that you should know because they impact your actions and what path you take.
One more time with a favorite quote of mine: “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” ~Morpheus. (Any Matrix lovers out there?)
Day #2: HIV is NOT a chronic manageable disease for everyone.
We used to think that HIV infection was a death sentence because we saw the images of some really sick people in the media. Most of us probably knew someone or heard of someone who got sick and died from AIDS.
Now lots of people think that HIV is no big deal. We have a few magic bullet pills to take each day that make HIV no longer a threat in our life. Get infected? So what? I can just take the antiretrovirals and be okay…
But unfortunately, that is just not true and this belief may be leading people to engage is some very risky behaviors because they don’t know the real consequences.
Why is this important to you?
Let’s get real here. HIV is probably manageable but certainly not cured by medication. There are no magic bullets here.
You may not know that HIV meds don’t eliminate all the virus from your body. What they do is merely reduce levels of the virus to undetectable levels, or less than 75 copies per milliliter of blood. Now that is enough to keep them from inflicting major damage on your immune system. But, you have about 5200 milliliters of blood in your body or around 400,000 copies of the virus hanging around.
And those 400,000 copies can still do some do some harm because they can mutate and cause drug resistance. They are also causing an inflammation response in your body that impacts many of your major organs including your brain.
You don’t have to feel or look sick for HIV to continue its march inside your body that has long term effects.
How does this affect your path?
Taking risks and exposing yourself to HIV means a lifetime battle against the virus. No vacations, no time off for good behavior.
What you can manage about HIV is your treatment program, your overall health, and your lifestyle. You can reduce complications and drug resistance by following the plan you develop with your doctor. You can help control the impact of your side effects by working with your doctor and let him know what you are experiencing.
What you can’t manage about HIV is that it is an invader that seeks to wreak havoc on your body and at best, you can expect a draw in your ongoing battle. There is never a total victory – yet.
“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” ~Ulysses S. Grant
Do you really want to put yourself in this war?
The power is yours. What path will you choose?
I’d like to take credit for asking that question, but Lorraine Teel, Executive Director of the Minnesota AIDS Project, asked it in an op-ed piece last week in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Here is the link to read her article:
Lorraine lays out some very valid points about the Obama National AIDS Strategy. No more tip toeing around “language that may be perceived as not politically palatable”. Anyone can be infected by HIV, but the truth is that not everyone is at equal risk. Resources and messages need to be targeted at the groups most affected.
She also points out that controlling HIV, like many other public health threats, has no easy “one size fits all” solution. It is just not the same message to young heterosexuals as it may be to gay males.
But Lorraine nails it when she talks about how in the real world we live in, we take risks, and we make mistakes. We have to live with the consequences of those mistakes.
The difference here is that we look at HIV infection differently than other risk behaviors like smoking, driving too fast and binge drinking. Lorraine notes with HIV, it is always someone else’s fault. People point fingers and assign blame and rarely does that include themselves.
We treat HIV differently that other risk behaviors like smoking, overeating, and binge drinking, yet each of these have dire consequences. Why is dying from clogged arteries that we contributed to so much more acceptable than HIV? Because we don’t approve of the behavior that lead to the problem?
Or is it that perhaps most of us haven’t experienced a known behavior that puts you at risk for HIV? This is what the readers of her piece had to say in the comments written on the Star Tribune web site. I hope you would all read what she wrote and take the time to comment responsibly. I know that I did. The comments that were on the site show why HIV is still such a challenge across this country.
We will be sharing more in my next few blog posts about doing what WE can to stop HIV. In the meantime, I hope you will join me on Twitter http://twitter.com/kellyhivads for our One Dad Against HIV campaign to join 10,000 Twitter voices together.
So, as Lorraine says it, the next time you point that finger – turn it around and ask yourself, “What have I done today to stop HIV?”
There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart’s controls. ~Aeschylus
Have you ever experienced a situation similar to the one described below?
You are set for your monthly doctor visit. You have been feeling good, taking your meds, working out, and eating well. You stepped into the office and then backed out. The mere sight of it gave you the creeps. After a short while, you tried to step back in and couldn’t. You felt light-headed and your heartbeat started to go crazy. It sent chills up your spine. You felt the urge to run but you couldn’t — your difficult breathing left you immobilized.
What can we do about our fears? Can we stop them? Is there a way to use them to our advantage?
Fear is really designed to warn you. It is your body’s security alarm to keep you from stepping into unknown territory unprepared. If you re-discover the true role of fear in your life, you will find there are ‘good fears’ that lead to a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach or vigilance in dealing with your HIV status.
Fear is not meant to stop you, it could be used as a means to warn you to be prepared. Fear tells you to think twice before you step out and do something you will regret later. It gives you time or another chance to think so that you can make better decisions and take fewer risks. This is the correct perspective on fear.
For instance, it is perfectly natural to fear getting an HIV test. It is not the test that is the real fear – it is the chance of the positive result. This fear can make you extra careful about the choices in your sex life.
We are also programmed to fear becoming ill or injured, especially the unknown factor in being able to take care of ourselves. This is not to stop us from living each day, but to keep us from doing things that could hurt us. This natural self-preservation is a huge motivating factor in choosing a healthy lifestyle and limiting the risky behaviors associated with HIV infection.
Here are just a few normal fears associated with HIV:
Fear of the unknown – If you don’t know much about HIV and what happens in your body, you might be afraid.
Fear of changes in your status – When your tests are good, you are doing great. But your viral load could go up on the next doctor visit and you worry.
Fear of disclosure – Could somebody at work find out? Will that make a difference with your boss? It is nature to be concerned about what others might think, say or do if they found out your status.
Fear of symptoms – You might get obsessed with each and every twitch or minor illness that you experience because of what it might mean to your HIV. You spend a great deal of itme taking your temperature, checking your lymph nodes and searching for signs of infection.
Anxiety starts with persistent worrying and causes a disturbance in your mood and emotional life. Mild to moderate anxiety is nothing unusual after a major life event like becoming HIV positive. But fears and anxiety can get out of control and take over your world if you don’t deal with them.
Want to know more about fear and how to use it to your advantage?
Please make sure you get on my mailing list by putting your email address in the box to the upper right or go to http://myhivaidsawareness.com. I’ll have some more information about HIV fear and anxiety coming your way very soon!
Part 3 of 4 Part Series
“Don’t worry about the horse being blind, just load your wagon “ ~John Madden
In the first two parts of this series, we shared that we all get knocked down once in a while and the importance of knowing your opponent.
In this third part of this series, I want to talk about knowing you. Knowing all you can about HIV plays the game is great, but how are you going to react to it? How do you play the game?
You may be one of the thousands this year who were blown out of a comfortable (maybe not so exciting) life by an HIV positive diagnosis. If so, your best option and only real choice may be to learn how you can come to terms with it. You may need to change yourself to live in this changed reality.
So let’s talk about coming to terms with the change that HIV has brought in our lives:
Change is elemental in our lives right down to the changing light of each day. Life is never stagnant. You’re either growing or shrinking, flying or falling. The earth hurls around the sun at 16,000 miles an hour, every hour of the day. If you don’t accept the changing perspective, this forward motion will roll right over you.
Change doesn’t have to mean doing something wildly different than you started out to do. Being HIV positive doesn’t mean your entire life will change. Your health status has changed and the way you view the world may have changed with it. But your dreams for a full and successful life don’t have to end here.
Change has been the starting point of some of the world’s greatest accomplishments.
Ever thought about what the world would be like if things never changed? What would happen if we never faced a crisis like the plague or polio?
When it comes down to having to change to meet the new challenges of HIV, here are a couple of thought that may help you along the way.
1 – Understand Your Strengths
We are all born with unique strengths, talents and spark. There are some things you do that most people can’t or won’t do as well as you. Those are your special gifts. Identifying these strengths is the first and most important key to your creating a change in your life. Once you identify those for yourself, focus on them, develop them further and you can rely on them as you make the changes you need to face HIV.
2 – Identify What Excites You
We have all heard the age-old question, “what is your passion”? The answer doesn’t have to be big time, earth shattering, or revolutionary – most of the time it is something simple. What are the subjects, people and activities you really enjoy? What things do you find interesting and stimulating? What fills you with life and energy just thinking about it? The answers to these questions will usually lead in the direction of a rewarding life even when dealing with HIV.
3 – Take A Couple of Steps Back
To make the leap into your new life with HIV, you may need to take a step back to learn and study. Be willing to be an student for a while. Find someone who has been successful in living with HIV and seek their friendship and council. Be flexible, patient and teachable. Nothing worthwhile comes without effort and paying the price of knowledge.
4 – Be Wary of the Naysayers
Your friends, family and peers have known you as you have been. Change frightens most people. To many, it is especially frightening to watch someone else have the courage to radically change themselves and create new dreams. Why? Because it eliminates their own excuse for not doing the same in their own life.
5 – Build Your Support Team
Find friends, mentors and a peer group who share your thoughts and will be allies on your new journey. Also educate yourself with books, magazines (like POZ & Postively Aware), web sites (like MyHIVAIDSAwareness.com) and support groups that will guide and support you as you build new skills, attitudes, and awareness in your new life with HIV.
I’ve been reading a great post from QSaltLake about living with HIV in Utah – the Beehive State. Yes, HIV does exist in Utah and the rate of infection is growing.
Most of the media coverage on HIV tends to be in the larger cities and on the coast. But this post tends to highlight some of my biggest concerns about this new generation and HIV infection. Here is a passage that is worth sharing:
“I think people have become complacent about HIV because there are so many things going on in this world,” said Griffin, noting that awareness campaigns around diseases like cancer, while necessary, have had the unfortunate effect of leaving HIV/AIDS “in the dirt.” “And I also think [people] go, ‘Oh, they have such good drugs out for it now. People aren’t dying the way they used to.’… I have talked to friends who say, ‘Why is it so important to use condoms anymore? HIV is nothing new. It’s just HIV.”
I see first hand in my son’s life that HIV is most definitely something new for your body. It is a chronic viral infection that your body must fight everyday. In order to stay healthy, you must address it through lifestyle, nutrition, sleep, exercise, and ultimately taking medication. You may not be dying, but your life is sure changing.
We don’t see HIV as a major deal anymore because people are not dying in front of us as they did twenty years ago. Dying today? No. But life forever changed? Yes. Do you want the words viral load and CD4 count to become some of the most important to your everyday life?
Stan Penfold, Executive Director of the Utah AIDS Foundation laid out the situation this way: “ “Education has become so challenging because in many ways, when the epidemic was new and big and scary, you had the press and everybody on board. It was something people talked about or at least were aware of. Today it’s possible that someone who is 18–20 hasn’t even considered HIV is around. They may have not gotten any education in school, including what the risk factors are. They don’t think they know anybody with HIV though they probably do , and if they do they’re living relatively healthy, fortunately, if they’re on meds.”
Know somebody who is 18 -20 years old? Let them know that HIV does exist in Utah.
National HIV Testing Day is June 27th
Every year since 1995, the folks the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) organize National HIV Testing Day on June 27th. They bring together local organizations around the country to work with communities in promoting early diagnosis and testing for HIV.
When you get to the facts that a quarter of the people who are HIV positive in the United States don’t know it, you can’t shake the absolute urgency of being tested. In last winter’s overblown anxiety about H1N1 flu, people weren’t flying or getting on trains because they feared infection. There were daily news stories about the shortage of vaccines and the steps you needed to talk to ward off infection.
But how often do we talk about HIV infection in the mainstream media today? Are you taking precautions to prevent infection?
Early diagnosis and access to treatment mean the difference between life and death for those with HIV. They can also mean the same difference for those you have sex or share needles with in the coming years. Knowing your HIV status helps you make better decisions for yourself and those you share your life with.
On June 27th, state and local health departments, community-based organizations, HIV testing sites, and AIDS service providers across the United States will participate in events for National HIV Testing Day. These activities will include health fairs, community education, special events, and extended testing hours.
Right here in Phoenix, Southwest Center for HIV/ AIDS (www.swhiv.org) is offering free HIV testing on June 26 to honor National HIV Testing Day. Want to know more about events in your town or state? Please go to http://www.hivtest.org/press_files/events.cfm and click on your state to see the events.