hiv sylvia

ONE HEALTHY LIFE: Sylvia

"Like most people, I knew something about AIDS and HIV, but I believed it could never happen to me. When a friend told me about the quick and confidential test offered by the African American Health Program, I decided it couldn't hurt. When the test came back positive, I was shocked. A counselor was available right then to help me. Ever since, the AAHP has continued to offer me information, referrals and support. I'm not saying it's been easy, but today I am living with confidence, with hope-and yes, with AIDS."

Prevention And Management

Prevention

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or cure for HIV/AIDS. Prevention and testing are the first lines of defense. If you are not infected, prevent infection by avoiding behaviors that can put you at risk.

  • Educate yourself about sexually-transmitted infections. First, get tested and know your status. Encourage friends and family to do the same. Participate in educational events or classes that will help you to avoid risky behaviors and stay well.
  • Practice abstinence or safe sex. The AAHP recommends the use of male latex condoms or female polyurethane condoms during oral, anal or vaginal sex. Only water-based lubricants should be used with male latex condoms.
  • Injection drug users are counseled to stop using drugs and to enter substance abuse treatment programs, including relapse prevention. For injection drug users who cannot or will not stop injecting drugs, personal and public health risks can be reduced by never reusing or sharing syringes, water, or drug preparation equipment. Only use syringes obtained from a reliable source (such as pharmacies or needle exchange programs) and safely dispose of syringes after one use.



Management

Early medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle can help you stay well. Prompt medical care may delay the onset of AIDS and prevent some life-threatening conditions.

  • See a physician, even if you do not feel sick. A physician who has experience treating HIV is recommended. Good nutrition and physical exercise are essential. Smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, or using illegal drugs (such as cocaine) can weaken your immune system.
  • There are many drugs to treat HIV infection that can help you maintain your health. It is never too early to start thinking about treatment possibilities. Currently, there are 26 antiretroviral drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat individuals infected with HIV. These drugs fall into three major classes: Reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors; Protease inhibitors (PI) and Fusion inhibitors. Currently available drugs can suppress the virus, even to undetectable levels, but are unable to completely eliminate HIV from the body. Hence, infected patients still need to take antiretroviral drugs. Despite the beneficial effects of antiretroviral therapy, there are side effects associated with the drugs that can be severe.
  • In order to receive the support needed, the issue of how, when and to whom to disclose your diagnosis is very important. Community beliefs, stigmas and attitudes often make it difficult for disclosure decisions to be made. Telling friends, loved ones, and family members can help in getting the support you will need. But remember, you don't have to tell everybody. Take your time to decide who to tell and how you will approach them. Be sure you're ready for the range of responses and emotions that will follow.
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