Today's medications for HIV/AIDS are working miracles - people are living longer than ever before. Even so, its essential for people living with HIV/AIDS to maintain their health and stay active. Incorporating all these steps at once can seem like a big task but start one step at a time. Print out this list (or your own list), put it on the fridge and start with just one step that speaks to you the most. As you reach your goal, go down to the next step on your list and before you know it, you'll have gotten through all ten.
1. Get Acupuncture! Better Yet, Get An Acupuncturist
I'm not just saying this because I'm an acupuncturist. Studies have shown that traditional Chinese medicine can help manage stress, improve the immune system, manage side effects caused by medication, peripheral neuropathies, fatigue, and digestive issues. There is also more to Chinese medicine then acupuncture that your acupuncturist pull out of their tool box to help you. There are herbal therapies, qi gong exercises, cupping, gua sha, tui na massage, and moxabustion. It doesn't matter if you go regularly, get maintenance treatments, or only get acupuncture as needed for symptom relief, no one will be a bigger advocate for you than your acupuncturist.
2. Eat A Well Balanced Diet
There isn't a perfect diet out there, its important to find one that works best for you. Some general guidelines to follow are:
HIV and many of its treatments can change your body’s metabolism—or the way your body processes nutrients and other substances. According to Tufts University School of Medicine nutrition experts, the right diet can make it easier for the body to process the many medications that people with HIV must take, and it may even help ease common symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue.
3. Skip Drugs And Alcohol
Not only can drugs and alcohol negatively interact with your medications, alcohol can also weaken your immune system.
4. Don't Forget About Your Mouth
Oral health problems like mouth sores, gingivitis, and thrush effect over 1/3 of the HIV/AIDS population. Brushing and flossing regularly, and visiting the dentist can help prevent problems like these from developing.
5. Find Ways To Reduce Your Stress
Research at the University of California, San Francisco, has shown a clear link between stress and reduced immune system function; stress can interfere with appetite and sleep patterns. There are 100 different ways to manage stress: yoga, meditation, acupuncture, talk therapies, exercise, video games - there's something for everyone
6. Use Caution When You Travel
Food borne illnesses can be unpleasant in healthy individuals but they can cause severe complications in people living with HIV or AIDS. It’s best to be prepared when visiting developing countries or a place where food and water safety can be difficult to ensure and the rates of transmittable diseases are higher. If you're planning a trip, be sure to talk to your medical care team to get advice and any extra supplies.
7. Keep An Eye On Your Skin
If the eyes are a window into the soul than the skin is a window into how the body's immune system is functioning. Skin problems are often among the earliest signs of HIV infection. People with HIV frequently have persistent skin infections so its important to watch your skin carefully for changes.
8. See Your Doctor Regularly
Even though I said your acupuncturist can be your biggest advocate, your doctor is too. Seeing your doctor regularly can help to make sure that your medication doses are correct, monitor your viral load, track any new infections, establish baselines, and get you set up with any services you might need.
9. Take Your Medication On Time
Yes - this is important too! Studies show that
taking the correct medication dose and taking your medications on time is directly correlated to a decrease in your viral load and can possibly help to prevent medication resistance. The lower your viral load, the healthier you can be.
10. Learn All You Can About HIV/AIDS And Get Involved!
Tests results, CD4 levels, doctors visits - it can be confusing and overwhelming when you're in new and unfamiliar territory. There is so much information out there - from websites to blogs and message boards, even at your local library. Studies have shown that people suffering from a chronic disease who take an active approach to their health care are much more likely to enjoy a better quality of life.
Over 46% of people living with HIV/AIDS say they feel isolated and alone but it doesn't have to be that way. There are a ton of community centers, meet up groups, support centers, and chat sites. Whether you're ready to get out there and meet people or just dip your toe in the water, the most important thing to remember is you are not alone!
Last but not least, I'm here to help, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.