Taking Care of Yourself
Taking care of oneself is extremely important for anyone but it is essential for those with chronic illnesses and this includes those who are living with HIV/AIDS.
Proper nutrition, regular exercise, sleeping, and emotional well-being are also important to living a long, healthy and productive life.
What to Expect
Having fears is normal and is part of learning to live with HIV/AIDS. That is why it is extremely important for you to take part in your care and that involves asking questions, learning about the disease, knowing and paying attention to your body (changes, effects of the drugs if you are taking medications, etc.) and sharing this information with your provider.
Regular Check Ups
Keeping your appointments with your provider is part of taking care of oneself. Your viral load (the amount of virus you have in your body) and CD4 (the white blood cells that help your body fight infections) counts need to be monitored on a regular basis. Ideally, you want the viral load to be low and your CD4 count to be high. When you go in for your CD4 counts, this is a good time to share with your provider any concerns, changes you have noticed and how you feel physically.
It is also important to contact your provider when you are not feeling well; especially when the symptoms last longer than normal. Immediately contact your provider if you:
Together, with other physicians who specialize in certain areas (through consultation or visits), they can come up with a plan to address the changes you may have noticed.
Working out on a regular basis, and playing sports that you enjoy helps your body stay healthy, develop strong muscles, and helps you fight other illnesses. Studies have also shown that people who exercise regularly recover from ailments (colds, flus, injuries, etc.) faster than those who are not physically healthy. As people grow older, their bodies naturally change; however, for those who live with HIV or AIDS, some may lose muscles or their bodies may change faster than others.
Getting a good night's rest is also important to healthy living. Sleeping properly allows your body to rest and restore energy; taking naps when you are feeling tired may also help. It is always helpful to listen to your body, especially when you are not feeling well, but make sure you see your health care provider when illnesses last longer than normal.
Living with a disease, especially one that many people do not understand or know about, can be stressful. It helps to talk to someone you trust, such as a mental health counselor, your health care provider, a trusted friend, or even others who may be in the same situation that you are in, when you are faced with challenges in your life or fearful thoughts.
Seeking or keeping regular appointments with a mental health counselor or therapist does not mean that you are crazy. Mental health professionals are very much like physicians who work and seek to help you deal with living with HIV or AIDS.