There are a lot of things besides your meds that can keep you healthy despite living with HIV. Here are some of our favorites:
Stay positive Studies have shown a positive outlook can actually improve health, lower one’s viral load, and extend your life. Judith T. Moskowitz’s 2014 University of California, San Francisco study showed that people newly diagnosed with HIV who used coping skills to stay positive carried a lower viral load, were more likely to take their medication correctly, and were less likely to need antidepressants.
Nurture Your Gut The lymphoid tissues in a person’s stomach are filled with T cells. Because HIV affects T cells, many people with HIV have gastrointestinal problems, but a healthy GI tract is crucial to proper absorption of antiretroviral medication. Eat yogurt or take probiotics to replenish your healthy gut bacteria and embrace a high-fiber diet.
Move That Body Exercise helps control your weight, fights cardiovascular disease, and can help boost your T cells. Brian Risley, the manager for treatment education at AIDS Project Los Angeles, says some studies have shown that moderate activity, even in short bursts, spurs an uptick in T cell counts, even when it doesn’t have a serious effect on viral load.
Drink Coffee Drinking three cups of coffee a day increased treatment success by 80 percent and reduced side effects by more than 80 percent in one study of people living with HIV and hepatitis C.
Brush Your Teeth HIV can cause sores in your mouth. Brushing can help prevent cavities, which could allow an infection into your bloodstream. Plus, you’re sexier when you have all your pearly whites.
Get it On Orgasms can be wonder drugs in themselves: They help you sleep, boost your immunoglobulin levels (which fight infections), and reduce stress and depression.
Have a Little Faith No matter if you worship in a cathedral, mosque, temple, or on the sofa, most physicians believe that some form of spirituality can help people better cope with their health problems. This can also help you build a social circle and feel generally more positive.
Call Someone Who Cares Each state has its own toll-free HIV and AIDS hotline, and Project Inform has the full list at ProjectInform.org/hotlines. If you call the Project Inform HIV Health InfoLine (800-822-7422), you can talk to non-judgmental people (in English or Spanish) who will listen, share their experiences, offer you accurate information, and help you navigate health care obstacles.
Make Friends Having strong relationships can be a matter of life or death. A joint review by Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that people with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival regardless of age, sex, or health status. Simply put: people with friends live longer.
Stop Smoking According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, people living with HIV who smoke are far more vulnerable to side effects than people not living with HIV, and are now more likely to die from lung cancer than HIV. Indeed, researchers found, “those who continued to smoke were six to 13 times more likely to die from lung cancer than from traditional AIDS-related causes.”