Masonia Traylor was 23 years old when she was diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in 2010.
“The first couple of weeks, I just cried every day,” Traylor recalls. “I reflected on my whole life at the age of 23 and I was very disappointed in myself; He questioned many of the decisions I made [had] done “.
But while Traylor was figuring it out, he knew it was pregnant 2 weeks after her HIV diagnosis. More than a decade later, Traylor’s 9-year-old daughter is healthy. But Traylor clearly remembers the enormous pressure and stress he felt.
HIV diagnosis and stress
An HIV diagnosis it changes lives. Once you get it, there is no effective cure. But with the right kind of medical treatment, you can keep the virus count on your site blood low and live a long, healthy life without the risk of infecting others.
Although medical advances have greatly improved life expectancy, stigma and disease Stress which is derived from an HIV diagnosis, can still affect your quality of life.
“That [HIV] it affects a lot of things: your dynamics with your friends, your family, your workplace, and it involves a lot of mental and emotional stress, ”says Alan Taege, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Negative attitudes against HIV they are mainly rooted in misinformation about how the infection spreads. Many think it affects only certain groups of people. They often point to the genre, sexual orientation, gender, race or ethnic identity, drug use or sex work cause of HIV propagation. These attitudes can cause you to internalize stigma and cause you stress. This “self-stigma” can make you afraid to share news of your HIV status with your loved ones.
Traylor says he felt that way. “At first I looked at it as a punishment,” he says. While doctors tried to assure her that with proper and timely medical care, she would be fine, Traylor says it took her about a year to feel ready to share her HIV status.
In fact, it took him almost 6 years to feel that “it would go well.”
“It simply came to our notice then. It operated with a broken spirit, ”says Traylor.
When you have HIV, too much stress can affect your overall health, even if treatment keeps the infection under control.
“When the body is subjected to a significant amount of stress, it can cause inflammation, which can trigger a series of waterfalls in the body that, in a nutshell, make other chronic diseases more likely or worse, “says Jonathan Colasanti, MD, associate medical director of the Grady Health System Infectious Diseases Program in Atlanta.
While many consider the diagnosis of HIV to be a stressful time in their lives, some handle it better, especially if they have a good support system. But Taege says it’s important to assess your patients ’mood from the start to help them cope with stressors head-on.
When he meets someone recently diagnosed with HIV, he says he is trying to figure out what they know about the disease and how well they manage the diagnosis.
“We [may] they need help not only from our social workers, but also from specific counselors and psychiatrists, because many of these people need this kind of help, ”says Taege.
One study found that too much stress could work against HIV treatment, increasing the viral load in the blood and making HIV more likely to progress to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This is the stage of HIV in which the virus destroys you immune systemthe ability to fight infection and can cause death. If you have a lot of stress and find it difficult to keep up with your treatment plan, tell your doctor.
“It’s important to grab the bull by the horns, so to speak, in terms of stress, because stress has negative impacts cardiovascular disease, yen cancer, and about these other medical conditions that we know individuals living with HIV they have a higher risk of, ”says Colasanti.
Management of treatment side effects
HIV treatment involves a medicine called antiretroviral therapy (ART), which can control the amount of HIV in the blood or viral load. Typically, people with HIV can see results within six months of starting the drug. The amount of HIV can become low enough to be “undetectable” or unable to be tracked in blood tests. This means that your viral load is low enough so that you can stay healthy and not transmit HIV to others.
But you have to take yours medication as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, it can make the body’s virus resistant to the medication to stop working. The virus can begin to multiply and attack your immune system. This will increase the chances of developing AIDS. It also means you can spread it to other people.
At the moment, most of the available medications come in the form of daily pills that should be taken once or twice a day orally. Although newer medications have reduced the side effects of many people, it is still possible to get side effects, including digestive problems, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and others.
While side effects can act as stressors, Colasanti says the action of swallowing a pill every day can become a heavy reminder for some and affect their day-to-day lives.
“They live with this disease which, as I mentioned, is still quite stigmatized. And so, no matter how much they want to, just to live their life, this daily pill reminder can be a very difficult reminder that will not allow them to forget their illness and live their life, ”says Colasanti.
Traylor says he has experienced this dilemma.
“For those of us who struggle to take our medications, you are constantly reminded that, on the negative side, you are not worthy, you are not valuable, you have HIV, that makes you‘ less than. ’But on the contrary , I take it because I have to reaffirm … that mine [life is] valuable, ”Traylor says.
The FDA has recently approved the first injectable drug (Cabenuva), which should only be taken once a month. This can act as an alternative form of therapy for people who consider taking daily pills to maintain the HIV viral load is a burden.
If you find it difficult to take pills every day for your HIV, it is best to ask your doctor if you can change your medication or if you are eligible for the injection. Do not miss doses without your doctor’s attention. If necessary, your doctor can work with you to develop the treatment plan that works best for you.
How to live well with HIV
While drugs and the body work hard to keep the viral load suppressed, it is inevitable that you will feel some form of fatigue, stress, or pain on a day-to-day basis. But there are things you can do to control your symptoms and maintain the best possible health.
Plan ahead. It is very important that you do not skip medications. If you have a busy schedule, make it a point to plan and pack pills to take away.
Achieve mental health support. If you feel unwell or stressed, report it to your healthcare team. They can help you move towards appropriation mental health experts such as therapists or psychiatrists who can help you deal with any emotional issues you may encounter.
“For me, having mental health therapy is definitely the most important thing,” says Traylor. You can also find a friend or family member to talk about your feelings.
Stop alcohol and drugs. If you smoke or take drugs, it can prevent the treatment from working properly.
If you are HIV positive, it may be a good idea to reduce or stop smoking. If you are not sure how to get started, talk to your doctor about available resources that can help you.
Join a support group. It’s important to connect with other people who have HIV and can share their life experiences with you. This can make you feel part of a community.
“There are support groups in almost every city. Even if you are not in a nearby city, contact an HIV care provider and a social worker, who will hook you up so that they become very important, ”says Taege.
Getting to the others turned out to be a lifesaver for Traylor.
“(When) I started sharing my story, I was educated. I raised awareness and started participating more in campaigns. I started asking a lot of questions and I got involved in a lot of community work, ”he says.
Through her HIV activism, Traylor was able to meet other people living with HIV in the long term, especially other older black women, who were able to give her hope and the ability to visualize her own life with the HIV. HIV in the long run.
Practice self-care. Find time to take care of yourself. Eating well and getting plenty of rest can be a form of therapy. Traylor says self-care can be as simple as becoming a nail-biting point often to pamper or spend time listening to your favorite music.
Meet your doctor. To successfully navigate your journey through HIV, Taege says it is very important to have a strong relationship with your doctor first.
“You have to be comfortable with the care provider you choose. If you think I’m not the right person, tell me and I’ll find someone for you, because if you don’t have a good solid working relationship with your caregivers, attention, it won’t work for you, ”Taege says.
Colasanti agrees that people need to feel free to express their concerns to their doctors. For him, as a doctor, over time it can be easy to see HIV as a curable disease like diabetes or high blood pressure which can be managed simply with medication.
“It’s very easy to say as a doctor who had seen the treatment evolve and where we are now, compared to what we had two decades. But this is just a lip service to someone who is really living and struggling right now. So I think it’s important to keep this conversation going with your HIV provider to tell them, “I’m struggling and I need help.”