Living A Full Life And Successfully Managing HIV
Modern medicine has revolutionised the way HIV/AIDS is being handled today. Affected individuals are able to get treatment and live a healthy life. Here is what you need to know about managing AIDS/HIV.
AIDS was first diagnosed in an individual from New York in 1981. It was initially classified as an exotic new disease, but as of 2021, around 1 per cent of the global population is living with this virus.
Stigma, preconceived notions, and ostracization have led to many individuals in India and the world living quietly from a condition that can be easily managed from modern medicine. The truth is, many people even today, try to avoid those with HIV/AIDS as if a simple touch is enough to transmit the infection.
While mainstream media and discourse about HIV/AIDS have helped many to speak openly about their experiences, there are still others who fear the societal judgement that comes with a HIV diagnosis.
If you have HIV/AIDS, know that you are not alone. There is a community to support and uplift you when you need it. Thanks to modern medicine and continual research about the infection, living a healthy life while managing HIV/AIDS symptoms is possible.
It’s Not The End Of The World
While there is no cure to completely eradicate HIV, medications today enable individuals to live a fulfilling life. Helping yourself as soon as you’re diagnosed is vital to lead a safe life living happily with the ones you love.
A 2018 Lancet study has shown that HIV stigma in India has led to individuals not opting for treatment, missing appointments, and delaying getting the right prescription. Doing this not only puts the individuals at risk, but it also increases the risk of transmission in situations where women are expecting a child.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, know that it’s not a punishment or crime. You are not at fault for contracting the infection, and societal stigma shouldn’t prevent you from taking necessary steps to protect your well-being. If you feel like you can’t speak to anyone in your life about your condition, reaching out to organisations that can counsel you through this time is essential. Here are a few that can help:
- ACCEPT, Bangalore
- Aids Awareness Group, New Delhi
- Asha Foundation HIV/AIDS Helpline, Bangalore
- Making U Know and Talk About AIDS, Patna
- Saadhan, Mumbai
- YRG Care, Chennai
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Importance of Treatment.
HIV treatment today prevents you from getting sick and controls the viral load of the virus in your body. The treatment can make the viral load low enough to be undetectable, but this doesn’t mean you should halt your treatment, as that can reverse the progress you’ve made. With an undetectable viral load, you will not be able to transmit HIV through sex.
If you are thinking about having a child, there is no need to worry about passing HIV to your child. Modern medicine has made it possible for you to safely have a child that doesn’t suffer from HIV. When you have an undetectable viral load, meaning that you’re consistently sticking to your treatment and medications, the risk of transmission is less than 1 per cent.
HIV-positive individuals go through lifelong treatment which controls the growth of the virus, slows down symptoms, and prevents transmission to others. Various antiretroviral drugs have been approved for HIV treatment, and healthcare providers will generally prescribe a cocktail of them, which is then known as antiretroviral therapy (ART). These medications are categorised in six groups, based on what they do and how they affect the human body.
- Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs): slow or inhibit the growth of the virus by inducing the virus to use faulty building blocks
- Non-nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs): binds to proteins so the virus can’t replicate
- Protease Inhibitors (PIs): block a protein that the virus needs to make new HIV particles
- Integrase Inhibitors: stop HIV from making copies of itself by blocking a critical protein
- Fusion Inhibitors: prevent HIV from invading healthy cells
- Pharmalogic Enhancers: amplify effects of other medications taken for HIV
Skipping treatment can increase viral load of HIV, which can make it transmissible to other individuals and lead to a host of other complications. HIV can also spread through breastfeeding, but maternal ART can significantly reduce this risk. It is recommended that where possible, breastmilk should be replaced by infant formula.
Prevention of HIV
If you have been diagnosed with HIV, being responsible and informing your past partners is a must. You have to let them know that they need to go through HIV testing and start treatment if they are diagnosed positive.
With proper care, HIV transmission can be reduced. Using condoms when having sexual intercourse is a must, even when oral sex is being performed. HIV prevention medication such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can also be used if you have access to them.
While HIV can affect anyone regardless of gender, sexuality, race and so on, there are specific sections that are more prone to being affected by it. If you live in a community with many HIV-positive individuals, the chance of being HIV-positive can increase, but only when engaging in sexual intercourse or syringe sharing.
In India, high risk populations include sex workers and their clients and drug users who use same needles. As stated by National AIDS Control Organisation, the majority of cases in India happen during unprotected heterosexual intercourse.
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Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
Living a healthy lifestyle once you’ve been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS will help manage symptoms and prevent any conditions like candidiasis, tuberculosis and pneumocystis pneumonia. Your body needs the energy to fight the infection, and this can only happen when you’re following a healthy diet. According to HIVInfo (American National Institutes of Health), good nutrition can improve the absorption of medication while strengthening your immune system.
Eating balanced portions that include fruits, vegetables, protein, grain, and dairy is essential for body maintenance. Make a conscious choice to avoid foods high in saturated fats, added sugars, and salt. Infections associated with HIV can make it hard to swallow or eat, but being consistent with your diet will help with combating them.
Side effects of AIDS medication can make you feel nauseous, lose appetite, and more. If you feel like you’re unable to stick to a healthy diet because of side effects, talking to your medical provider is necessary so medications can be changed.
Foodborne diseases are also common among people living with HIV, and to reduce your risk of them, avoiding specific food items like raw eggs is crucial. Raw or barely cooked meat, poultry, or seafood is also not ideal to include in your daily diet.
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Handling Your HIV Care with Experts
Having a primary medical provider when you’re dealing with HIV/AIDS is essential, as this can help set up a solid foundation for you to live a healthy and carefree life. Your healthcare provider will determine and prescribe HIV medication that is suitable for your body and condition. They will be there to continually monitor the progress of the infection and your health. Dealing with HIV/AIDS can be different for everyone, and your primary medical provider can put you in touch with someone else if there are specific ailments to be addressed.
Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to anything related to your health. Your medical team will need to have accurate information to manage your treatment, and when they don’t have all the facts, it can be quite challenging for your health to remain as unaffected as possible by HIV/AIDS.
If you are an active smoker with HIV, it would be helpful for you to lessen or quit the habit immediately. Smoking and HIV can make you more prone to contracting lung and cervical cancer, among other life-threatening diseases.
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Letting Go Of Stigmas and Embracing Your Authentic Self
According to a 2018 study published in The Lancet, while India’s National AIDS Control Organisation is committed to ensuring that 90 per cent of HIV-affected patients know their status, an estimated 26 per cent still don’t know their HIV-positive status. Societal stigma and barriers in testing and diagnosis still prevent many from getting the help they need.
Testing is the first step to getting proper treatment and living a healthy life. Speaking out against common misconceptions regarding HIV/AIDS should be encouraged to destigmatise the condition. Know that being diagnosed is not the end of your story, but simply another chapter.
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