Living with HIV
Make sure you get good quality, impartial information about HIV to help you make good decisions regarding your health and treatment.
Vitamins in fresh fruit and vegetables will ensure that your body is getting what it needs to stay as healthy as possible. If you want to take extra vitamins, discuss this with your doctor who will be able to give you help and guidance about what is best for you.
Exercise is vital to make sure you stay fit and maintain physical strength. Walking, running, dancing, even sex two or three times a week, are all helpful here. Ask to see a personal trainer at your local gym; they can help you work out the best regime to keep you fit and healthy.
As well as keeping your body fit and healthy, regular exercise is a good source of relieving stress.
Living with HIV can be very stressful so make sure you make regular time in your day to relax and clear your mind. If you feel good about yourself this will have a positive effect on your health.
Some top tips for living well with HIV
- Get plenty of rest. Sleep is vital as your body needs to concentrate on healing itself. It’s good to get eight hours sleep every night.
- Always take HIV medication at the same time of day
- If you are going out take some medication with you
- If you are going on holiday take plenty of medication with you (if required)
- If you have any worries or concerns make a list of questions to ask your doctor or nurse. Alternatively seek help and advice from relevant services and organisations
- Friends, partners and family can provide additional emotional support. If you are comfortable talking to them, they’ll be more than happy to help.
Feelings of guilt whether rational or not can be very damaging. Guilt will not lead to a happy life with HIV. High or good self-esteem does. We must learn to work through the guilt, and move onto feeling good enough about ourselves to create and maintain a happy and fulfilling life.
Low self-esteem can prevent those of us with HIV from caring for ourselves. If you do not feel good about yourself, you may not do the things you need to in order to keep yourself healthy.
If it is not possible to talk to your friends and family about any issues and you need support, there are a variety of agencies that may be able to help. Remember, these agencies deal with HIV related issues on a daily basis and are there for you, please use them if you feel you need to.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma attached to HIV, and this is usually born out of ignorance in the general population. People still see it as a gay, or drug addicts problem, and in recent surveys people actually attached blame to anyone who acquired the condition through sex or drug use. The virus does not judge between people, but sadly society does.
Many newly diagnosed people feel that they can’t speak to their friends or family about their status, and they may need time to come to terms with it themselves. Also, people may be afraid of what work colleagues would say if they knew. If you are diagnosed, you are not obliged to tell anyone (other than perhaps your partner, but again this raises many issues for some people). Some people find it better to talk to a trained counsellor initially, as a positive diagnosis can be a scary thing to go through alone.
Self esteem may also be affected, and again this is why it is important to talk about your fears and anxieties. Bottling up these emotions can be more damaging long term if left unresolved.
Talking about your HIV
People living with HIV can also experience discrimination in their workplace, in healthcare settings (e.g., GPs and dentists), from members of their local community and through the media.
Disclosing your status is a very personal decision and is a complex topic. Telling an employer is very different from telling a sexual partner, and different again from telling a friend. At the end of the day, you have the final decision of when, how and even if you want to disclose your status.
HIV prejudice is often the result of ignorance about how HIV is passed on and an unfounded fear of becoming infected. Encouraging those around us to talk about HIV and to find out the facts can help overcome this.
Don't just take it from us. Here are some quotes from people living with HIV who are part of the amazing George House Trust Positive Speakers programme - these people volunteer their time to travel around the country and talk at events about their experiences of HIV.
"A devil you know is better than a devil you don’t know, so please get tested, it’s never too late."
"HIV has empowered me to take personal responsibility for myself, my body and my feelings. To be assertive around my needs, not just my man’s."
"Taking risks is part of life. For me that one time did not pay off and now I’m positive. Knowing my status empowers me to lead life positively."
"You can still lead a positive life when you are HIV positive."
"I am a positive, positive - living, working, socialising amongst you. It has not stopped my life, but made me value living it."
"There is still life with HIV, I am moving forward, so can you."
The George House Trust
The George House Trust is the largest and oldest HIV voluntary organisation serving the whole of the North West of England.
Their aim is to promote the best quality of life for all people living with HIV. George House Trust provide a range of high quality services for people with and affected by HIV (including partners, children, carers and family) including many people across Lancashire. All services are free.
They provide one to one support, practical help from a team of trained volunteers, treatment advice and support, welfare benefits, money and employment advice, support with immigration problems, support groups for Africans, gay men, women and carers, family days, a range of courses (such as for the newly diagnosed), counselling, internet access and information about HIV.
George House Trust work closely with Barnardo's Health Through Action in providing support to families and children affected by HIV. The charity also has a welfare fund and access to grants from Crusaid and the Children with Aids charities.
For more information visit the George House Trust website at www.ght.org.uk.