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Coping with HIV and AIDS

In a world of stigma, minisformation and ignorance surrounding AIDS, it is very difficult to cope with AIDS for both patients and caregivers. Practical hints on coping with everyday activity, provided by YRG Care, a Centre for AIDS Research and Education, are presented here.

Personal and Home Hygiene

  • Soiled linen

  • General Cleanliness

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day (morning & night), clean your tongue and use antifungal drops to prevent thrush, if needed.

  • Bathe at least once a day (if bedridden have a sponge bath). Shampoo hair to keep it clean to prevent infection of scalp.

  • Wear clean, preferably cotton, clothes to prevent gal infections especially in summer.

  • If there are sores or infected wounds apply ointment and keep it covered.

  • Cut nails short.

Soiled linen

Soak the linen and underclothes in bleach for 30 minutes.

After this they can be washed with soap & water along with other clothes.

General Cleanliness

  • Maintain clean surroundings and keep windows open.
  • Clean spills of blood, vomitus or other body fluids with household bleach.
  • Keep the room cheerful with flowers and plants.
  • Wash hands after each task.
  • Wear gloves where necessary.
  • Use waterproof sticking plaster over a cut.
  • Do not share toothbrush or razors.

Nutrition

Good nutrition is important for everyone to have a healthy lifestyle. But once you are infected with HIV, you need high calorie high, energy diet because:

  • You experience hypermetabolism.

  • Your immunity is decreasing and you need foods that boost your immunity.

  • You are more prone to infections and you have to be careful about contaminated food and water.

Nutrtion should be given serious priority. The bottom groups of foods in the Food Triangle, like bread, rice, roti, poori provide high calories.

  • One serving of grains includes 1/2 cup of cooked rice or 1 slice of bread

  • One serving of fruit includes 1 whole fruit or 3/4 of tea cup of fruit juice.

  • One serving of vegetables could be a cup of raw leafy vegetables or 1/2 of other vegetables cut, raw or cooked.

  • One serving of meat includes one egg or 1/2 cup of cooked peas or one ounce of meat.

  • One serving of milk is a cup of milk or yoghurt.

Sprouting

Soak pulses in the water overnight and in the morning drain the water. Tie the soaked pulses in a soft clean cloth and keep it away from sunlight until you notice small sprouts. These sprouts have increased nutritive value and fourfold increase in the vitamins and mineral contents.

The fruit and vegetable groups are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, which support the immune function. HIV + ve persons need a high protein diet to build the muscle mass, maintain and repair cells and heal wounds. Tow to three servings should be included each day. Fats, which are not advised for normal people, provide an excellent and delicious way to pack calories into your diet and should be included.

The best way to get all these nutrients is to eat a variety of foods from each food group. Water is an essential component of every cell in your body. Drink adequate amount of boiled cooled water (8 glasses a day)

Diet

A sample balanced, nutritive diet:

Take small quantities of balanced food but at more frequent intervals. Avoid too much spice.

7.00 a.m              Coffee/tea/milk/ragi/complan

8.00-9.00 a.m.      Breakfast

11.00-11.30 a.m.   Fruit/juice/biscuits/milk/sandwich

12.30-1.30 p.m.     Lunch

3.00-4.00 p.m.      Coffee/tea/milk/sundal/cereal/nuts/sprouts

7.00-8.00 p.m.      Dinner

Before Sleep         Milk/Bournvita/Boost/Horlicks

Food Hygiene

Do not eat food that is left open because files may contaminate or dust may settle on it.

Do not eat raw chutneys or salads served in hotels.

Eat hot (temperature) food. It is safe avoid cold meat.

When eating fruits or raw vegetables, wash them.

Use boiled water.

Vitamins and Minerals

  1. Vitamins A, C, E are antioxidants. They are the body's first line of defence against free radicals. They limit the spread of degenerative illness. Vitamin B complex and Vitamin D are also essential.

  2. Minerals like Selenium, Zinc and iron supplementation help to maintain a healthy body.

Alcohol, Cigarettes and Drugs

  • Smoking is harmful for anyone. Smoke damages the lungs and may lead to cancer. It may also increase the chances of infections.

  • Drinking too much alcohol can damage the liver and later lead to cirrhosis of liver. Alcohol removes the inhibition and a person may do things under its influence which he may not do under normal circumstances, for e.g. safer sex.

  • Drugs also harm the body and sharing of needles can cause Hepatitis or other blood borne infections.

  • Alcohol, Cigarettes & drugs are expensive, and that amount of money can be used to buy nutritious food and vitamins.

Fitness

Work

  • Do continue to do your job as long as you can and lead a productive life.

  • Work helps to keep your mind off your other problems and brings home some money.

  • If your job is very difficult (physically) ask for a less stressful job.

  • Or do a part-time job.

  • If you have nights shifts sleep well during the day.

Exercise

Regular exercise is the key to an improved sense of well being. It increases your muscle mass, reduces stress, depression & improves your sleep, appetite and immune function.

Start slowly and work up to an intensity and stop when you are tired. Start 3 times a week with walking, stretching running, swimming, etc.

Listen to your body and stop when you are tired.

Yoga and meditation gives a sense of peace and also improves your immune functions.

Relaxation

  • Learn to relax physically & mentally

  • Listen to music

  • Learn to dance or develop any hobby of your interest

  • Read magazines, story books and holy books.

  • Spend time with your family, friends & self help groups.

  • Swimming is a good form of relaxation and also keeps you fit.

Sleep

Your body needs rest. Try to sleep for at least 8 hours every night. Rest over weekends. Get an afternoon nap. If you work during nights try to get 8 hours sleep by day.

If you have difficulty in sleeping, drink some warm milk before going to bed. A warm water bath or listening to music could also comfort you to get sleep. If these things do not work, then consult your doctor.

Sex and Marital Relationship

Sex

Sex is a very normal and healthy part of our lives.

HIV status can change your feelings about sex. You do not have to make drastic changes in your life. Safer sex will protect your partner from HIV and will protect you from any STD, which will harm you. Condoms with water based lubricant, if used properly, are an effective barrier against HIV and STDs.

Test your spouse/partner

HIV causes AIDS. The blood test is not for AIDS but tells if you have the virus in your body. It may take many years (10-15 yrs) for you to develop AIDS even if your test is positive. So do not panic, ask your doctor how you can delay the onset of AIDS and live a good quality of life.

HIV is transmitted only through blood to blood contact or through unprotected penetrative sex.

Hence, it is necessary to test your spouse or partners.

But remember the test takes upto 3 months to become positive (Window period) and hence check with the doctor before the test.

STD - Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The possible signs of STD are unusual excessive foul smelling discharge, sores, blisters in and around the Penis or Vagina. Sometimes, there is pain and burning on passing urine. Unfortunately some persons with STD have no symptoms, especially women.

The sooner the symptoms are recognised and treated, the quicker and easier is the cure. People with STD are more prone to HIV because the virus passes into the body through the sores or broken skin.

Treatment

Work closely with your doctor on the treatment required.

HIV lowers your resistance to fight infections and hence leads to diseases commonly present in your area- e.g. TB, Diarrhoeal diseases, Lung infections, etc.

These can be prevented by drugs -"chemoprophylaxis".

Go for routine medical check up at least every three months, or earlier if there are any problems e.g. cough, fever, diarrhoea, difficulty in swallowing or breathing, problems with vision etc.

Antiretroviral Therapy

There is no drug in the world to cure AIDS but a wide range of antiviral drugs, which significantly slows the disease, are available even in India, but the costs are prohibitive. Combination therapy is the best way to optimise the potency against HIV and prevent drug resistance.

If a person is planning to take this 'Combination Drugs' otherwise called 'Cocktail Therapy' he should realise it is a life long treatment, and should not be stopped after a few months. But in our country the costs are prohibitive.

This treatment drastically lowers the virus in the blood stream and hence there is an increase in CD4 cells (White cells) giving better immunity and quality of life.

Do not agree to try medicines which are not scientifically proved and tested. It may cause more harm then cure to the body.

'COCKTAIL THERAPY' for reducing the number of HIV particles in blood is available, but very expensive.

If you need to know more about it ask you doctor.

Hope - A Positive Attitude

hope and learning to cope can help you live positively. Death is not in our hands. For all of us quality of life, when we live is important.

Life thrives on hope. Follow a lifestyle where you will be exposed to very minimum of infections. Please see you doctor regularly and comply with his or her medical advice diligently.

People with AIDS are living longer with a better quality of life than they did ten years ago. So we can hope that the future will surely be better.

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