With research suggesting that many positive people will live a normal lifespan (82 is the average for Australians), David Menadue asks: "Why stop there?" Here are some tips on how to live a longer and healthier life.
- A good relationship with your doctor
People with HIV need to see their doctor relatively frequently if they are to have a good handle on their health (viral load, CD4 and basic blood results). If you are able to have an honest discussion with him/her about anything that might be bothering you, from that funny toenail infection to concerns about your mental health or relationships, then you will feel more in control of your health and your life. And, if you see them often enough, a good doctor will pick up signs of potential illness and nip it in the bud.
- Get off the couch
In days when people spend more time sitting around doing little, like trawling Facebook, we are doing our body no favours. Regular exercise has been shown to improve T-cell counts and a sense of wellbeing. It helps produce hormones that help calm us down. Physiotherapists recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise a day — and it need not be strenuous to be beneficial: walking or dancing in the street is just fine!
- Nurture your gut
The lymphoid tissues in a person's gut are filled with T-cells. Because of this, many people with HIV have gastrointestinal problems. However, a healthy gut is crucial to the absorption of HIV medications. HIV dieticians can help with advice here but having a good diet (including lots of fibre) and taking probiotics and yoghurt can help improve these problems.
- Beating the blues
Living with HIV can be stressful for many of us; for both physical and psychological reasons. Being proactive about avoiding depression and anxiety, knowing the symptoms and being willing to seek professional help — such as seeing an HIV-experienced counsellor — can really make the difference.
- Mingling limbs
Sex can be a fraught issue for positive people because of issues around disclosure, body image and fear of transmission. But there is no doubt that it can be great for your immune system, help you sleep and reduce stress. Getting partnered has been seen to be an even greater factor in living a long life; developing a network of close friends contributes a lot too.
- Enjoy life's simple pleasures
We all need things to look forward to in life to help us keep up our moods. Having a glass of red wine at the end of the day has been proven to be good for your health. Listening to soothing music can be a great relaxant. Strolling on the beach or watching a sunrise/set releases serotonin too. It’s the little things that can make our day.