Living positively with HIV


When you're diagnosed as HIV-positive, it needn't be the end of your life. It just means that you have to start living positively.

Here are some ways to do just that, courtesy of Pierre Brouard of the Centre for the Study of AIDS, University of Pretoria:

  • Get informed about HIV/Aids and remember to take in as much as you need at the time
  • Consider prophylaxis for infections, including TB and pneumocystis pneumonia
  • Consider conventional and alternative medical options, including antiretrovirals
  • If you consider complementary, indigenous and/or Chinese herbal medicine, please do so under supervision (some herbal remedies may interact negatively with antiretrovirals)
  • Follow a diet high in immune-boosting nutrients and antioxidants
  • Take a good-quality antioxidant and multivitamin
  • Follow a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole-grains
  • Avoid caffeine, junk foods, alcohol, smoking and drugs
  • Massage therapy can relieve emotional distress, enhance body image and self-esteem, as well as improve circulation, lymph drainage and muscle relaxation
  • Get sufficient rest and sleep
  • Acupuncture can alleviate symptoms and boost immune functions by reducing stress
  • Learn to re-discover your enjoyment of sex and try always to practise safer sex
  • Don’t share needles
  • Insist on good infection control from your dentist, dental hygienist, acupuncturist, tattooist, body piercer and traditional healer
  • If you are pregnant, consider the options to prevent transmission to your baby
  • Become aware of your physical, psychological and spiritual needs
  • Find a counsellor who you can relate to who understands HIV/Aids and who is prepared to be there for you in an ongoing and flexible way
  • Join a support group – research shows that appropriate support combined with a positive attitude can raise CD4-cell counts, reduce symptoms and possibly prolong lifespan
  • Supportive relationships with those who accept and understand the situation are important – many people living with HIV say they find a new sense of meaning and purpose in life
  • “Connectedness” – a network of friends and family, a readiness to find emotional support and to give and receive love – seems to encourage good health
  • Keep pets if you are a pet-lover, but refrain from cleaning cat litter boxes, bird cages, dog litter and fish tanks (or use rubber gloves)
  • Keep a stress diary and learn what stresses you and what symptoms it creates
  • Find a stress-management technique that works for you
  • Practice a relaxation technique such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing
  • Get regular exercise, preferably with other people
  • Learn to nurture positive emotions – laughter and optimism have been linked with rises in antibody levels in the saliva and in hormones that boost the immune system, increasing the activity of natural killer cells that fight infection
  • Laughter also eases muscle tension, encourages diaphragmatic breathing, improves circulation and releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain-relieving opiates
  • Spiritual awareness and active community involvement benefit health
  • Music, art and dance can help touch the emotions directly and intuitively when talking about feelings is difficult
  • Learn to communicate well – others will respond better to you, your self-esteem will rise, your relationships will improve and you can prevent stress
  • Become more assertive – long-term poor health can sometimes be traced to humiliating experiences never brought into the open, but continually replayed at an unconscious level and a perpetual source of distressing negative self-talk
  • Sometimes behaving in a confident manner generates real confidence – if you hide your anxieties and act with self-assurance, people often respond by listening and assuming you know what you are talking about, which in turn reinforces your confident behaviour
  • Try and construct a health team: an Aids-literate doctor, dentist and counsellor who are prepared to work together with you
  • Take an HIV holiday when you don’t think or talk about it


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