Posts Tagged AIDS

Kansas Bill To Quarantine HIV And AIDS Sufferers Close To Being Passed!!!

The Kansas state Senate has approved a measure broadly deregulating when medical and other institutional officials can institute quarantines for patients in their care, including those living with HIV or AIDS.

State Senator Marci Francisco attempted to restore an amendment to the bill that exempted people living with HIV/AIDS from medical isolation, explaining that the disease is not spread through casual contact and warning the measure could encode discrimination in Kansas law.

Francisco’s Senate colleagues passed the measure without updating the language based on her recommendations. The bill in its current form has many HIV/AIDS health advocates concerned. “We live in a very conservative state and I’m afraid there are still many people, especially in rural Kansas, that have inadequate education and understanding concerning HIV/AIDS,” Cody Patton, executive director of sexual health nonprofit Positive Directions, told Gay Star News.

Patton is concerned that intentionally broad language in the bill, combined with a lack of education and medical understanding of HIV/AIDS, could lead to state-sanctioned discrimination, explaining: My fear would not be the state uses the law as some way to move all people living with HIV/AIDS into an isolated community, but that this law could allow some county employee to use this law to justify their religious beliefs over their professional responsibilities and discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS.

As Think Progress notes, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said it would be willing to work with groups concerned about the language in the measure, but the state Legislature has not yet signaled an intent to amend the problematic HIV/AIDS provisions.

Taken from : http://www.salon.com/2013/03/29/kansas_bill_could_allow_for_the_quarantine_of_hiv_positive_people/singleton/

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Quit it!

No Smoking

When I was 14, I remember the first time I ever had a drag from a cigarette. It wasn’t for another 7 or 8 years that I became a regularly smoker. Back then my friend and I wanted to try it. Both our parents were smokers back then so we figured why not. It was probably the worst experience of my life. That first drag felt like I was going to choke to death. Being young and naïve didn’t stop us; we got used to it and continued to smoke more.

I remember being caught twice by my mother, not actually smoking, but once from smelling like I did, and the second time from a packet of cigarettes in my room. By some miracle, I was able to talk my way out of both times. This experience really only lasted a few months. It was more about trying it than actually taking it up.

For several years after this, I hadn’t picked up cigarette. That was until at the prime age of 21-22. I recall one of my workmates being a smoker who would always leave his packet in full view. I was tempted again, and secretly took one of his cigarettes to give it a go. I really didn’t know if I was going to enjoy it or not and to my surprise, I did. Unknowingly, this was the start of a smoker’s life for me.

From here a packet of 25 cigarettes would last me about 2 weeks. I didn’t tell anyone I was smoking and I was again found out by my mother. She discovered an open packet in my bedroom (bless parents for sneaking in to kids rooms back then). This time, I played it so cool, and came up with the most amazing story, that not even she could question it. But there was always a little doubt in her mind because of the times when I was 14.

I continued to smoke with even better ways to disguise it. But over the course of a year I was smoking more and more each day. Eventually I was going through a packet in 2-3 days.

By the time I moved out of home and my life changed, I stopped hiding it. I was now officially a smoker averaging 15 cigarettes a day.

It became a habit/routine. I would wake up in the morning and have a cigarette, then on the way to work in the car. I would then smoke again in the morning with the smokers and a coffee and so on. It was such a habit that was things in my day that I didn’t do without a cigarette. It became second nature. My live in partner at the time was also a smoker, so there was never any guilt or desire to stop. This continued for many years until recently. I, like many smokers believed the following mantra:

Smoking is fun. Smoking is social, Smoking is a reward. Smoking gives me a form of pleasure. Smoking is a distraction. Smoking helps me relax. Smoking clears my mind and helps me think. Smoking brings back memories and stories and lets me share with like-minded friends and strangers. Smoking defines who I am.

I am not unique in how I started smoking, nor am I unique in how I continued.

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After being diagnosed with HIV in 2008, I asked my doctor if I needed to stop smoking. He said not for now, but there will be a lot of changes that I would need to make in the coming years. So I continued my routines, some days more than others. There was a time that I would go through 30-40 cigarettes in a day. These were days that were fuelled by other substances and vices, which also started to take over my life. Thankfully, in the last 4 years, all these vices have stopped, but my smoking continued.

At the start of 2011, I actually wanted to quit smoking, but I didn’t, only because I still enjoyed smoking. I made some progress though by reducing the amount I was smoking. Thankfully by the end of 2011, I had quit and longer wanted anything to do with them.

 

So how did I quit smoking?

It was far easier for me than I anticipated. Before I quit, I went through the process of changing my mind set by realising that smoking was a, ‘Want’, and not a need. I was never really one of those people who needed a cigarette, it was a habit. In fact I often went without smoking for a day and not even think about it til the following day. Keep in mind that often these days were out of my normal routine days with plenty of other distractions.

Next stage was to start changing some of my routines. I would pick just one time a day where I would purposely not have a cigarette, always a different time though, so as not to build a substituted routine.

Then after a few weeks of this, I moved to the next stage. I decided to not pick a, “I will quit smoking on this day”, date, but decided that on a particular day of no major significance, I would not have a cigarette, just for that day. I gave myself permission to slip up; it would be far easier than fighting the guilt of failing!

After about 2-3 weeks of doing this I finally decided that I was going to try for a second day in a row, and just go to the third and fourth. This time I had some bigger cravings, but steered away from the things that would allow me to smoke. By the third day, I didn’t think about not having a cigarette and just let the day be (I didn’t have one on that day). I started to change my routines that influenced my smoking. For instance on the first day I left home for work later, which meant I didn’t have time to think about smoking because I rushing to get to work. I also took different breaks on that day from the smoking group to the temptation.

I continued doing this for a week, and by the end of the first week, I was already noticing changes in my skin, taste, and even my tiredness. Once I got over the initial hurdles, the positive responses my body was having were starting to show. No patches, no gum, just me, or as some would say ‘cold turkey’.

Believe it or not, once you start feeling these changes, you actually don’t want to go back.

Yes there is a chemical dependency for smokers, but with small changes, this doesn’t have to be a reason any longer. I didn’t do any program; I just made minor changes over several months.

The first few days came and went, although there were many times I wanted a cigarette, I chose not to have one.

Often people say that when you stop smoking you start gaining weight. With a slow and steady process this is not always true. I actually found myself getting fitter and eating better. I was enjoying the taste of good food. I wasn’t getting out of breath from a brisk walk; I had more energy which was being used in a positive way in my life.

By the end of 2011, I was no longer smoking. I didn’t make a big song and dance about it either. Many of my friends would ask how I was going without smoking, and I simply would say that I no longer thought of it.

Now I was ready for the final BIG TEST. A big night out on the town with drinking buddies. Could I actually see the night through without smoking? Well yes, I did. I even had friends who were smoking and at no stage felt the desire for a cigarette. It also helped that no one tried to tempt me in having one either. They knew I had quit, and respected that. Even if I had said can I have one, I would have with no remorse from them or guilt from me. But I challenged myself to see it through.

This worked for me, and I have to say that it has been a great process. It wasn’t difficult at all. I dealt with the small cravings in little stages. There was never a huge withdrawal or mood swings. I never intended to quit, and I believe this helped, because it allowed me to quit at my own pace.

Different methods suit different people. You need to choose the method that best suits you and starts you on the journey of quitting. Remember, to quit smoking is not an event, it’s a journey.

There are so many different ways to start your journey. Sometimes it takes more than one attempt, and in some cases using more than one method works. Here are a few examples;

  1. Cold turkey
  2. Cut down to quit
  3. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
  4. Prescribed medications
  5. Online support
  6. Professional advice and support

Quitting smoking is about maintaining it over time. But if you slip up, that’s okay too. Just start the journey again. Slip ups are not ideal, but they can actually help you in the long term. Remember you are not alone if you slip up!

If you slip up, you are NOT A FAILURE! You are learning what works for you in your circumstances. If you slip up during your journey, use it as a learning experience. It’s normal to make errors while trying to master any skills in life. The trick is to make changes to what actually made you slip up. Refine your routine or maybe add some checks in place to avoid the same from happening again.

A theme with learning most skills is that they take practice and persistence.

So hopefully you are able to use some of my methods in quitting smoking. It’s kind of funny that after I quit smoking and read some articles on how to quit, that I was actually on the right path for me.

I hope that I have been able to encourage you also to take the steps you need to better health, and longevity. As people living with HIV we need to make changes that help our bodies and immune systems fight the virus and continue to live LONG and HAPPY lives.

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DON’T LET YOUR NEW YEAR START ON THE DOWN

Did you know that on average only around 12 per cent of people stick to their New Year’s resolution? So be a part of the revolution, and don’t let that put you off making positive changes to your life in 2013.

resolution1_5d9a63e768272c096182615b794562ddIt has begun! 2013! The new calendar year for the majority of us is well and truly here. So what of it? The only thing to really change was the date? Yesterday was the same as today, and most likely tomorrow.

In actual fact it is traditionally a time to reflect and make a fresh start or change to our life paths; changing things we have control over, and making resolutions to the things we wish for. It is also a time to allow our hair down, and go crazy for a short while, knowing tomorrow is a new start.

There are the few self-restrained who can bring in the New Year with just a small indulgence and be completely satisfied and content they were allowed it. Then there are the rest of us who indulge in an abundance of booze, vices and over indulgence of food and almost anything else we can manage and promise that as of January 2, we will be better behaved and controlled.

For people living with HIV this is the same but different. HIV is not something to be switched off for an extended moment of indulgence. It is a life path that needs care and adherence constantly. Only a few medical experts say that with a healthy immune system and adherence to medical regimes that it is sometimes okay to switch off for a moment. But this is rare and definitely not something I am endorsing or encouraging from people living with HIV. You can still enjoy the indulgence of the New Year celebrations, and maintain your health. There is a fine balance.

Historically on top of the New Year’s resolutions list is losing weight and getting fit, eating healthier, quite smoking, drink less, be kind and the classic to love more. It’s no surprise many people are planning to live a healthier lifestyle in 2013 but all too often these good intentions are quickly forgotten within a few weeks, and depending on what part of the world you live in, the weather plays a critical part in influencing this.

This may come as a surprise to you, but people living with HIV also make New Year’s resolutions with the same wishes, desires, and hopes for the New Year.

Have you noticed how gyms see a big increase in memberships at the beginning of each year, but see a drop off within weeks, and the attendance numbers also quickly declining within a short period? This is because we all start with good intentions, and quickly grow tired of them and revert back to old habits.

Don’t despair; there are things you can do to make sure 2013 is the year you want it to be.

  1. Set achievable goals that you know you can reach, instead of ideal goals that you may not.
  2. Plan to allow your resolution time to happen. (it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen!)
  3. Expect setbacks and times when things go in the opposite direction to your goals. It’s all a process.
  4. Don’t use these setbacks as the excuse to give up and try again next year.

“We promise this year, it will be different. Honest to God.”

resolution2One of the biggest things that comes along with the New Year is ‘New Years’ resolutions. The challenge is maintaining them. Make it a part of your life. Start small. The more you can do in small reasonable steps, the more likely you will do it over a long period of time.

Moderation is the key, for example, planning to go to the gym 7 days a week and train 3 hours a day for most of us is unrealistic and the fastest way to fail. Say instead that you will aim for 30 minutes a day, 2 or 3 days a week, now that is more achievable.

Remember your resolution is something you need to maintain, it’s a lifestyle change, not a short term fix.

“Knowing this is important, given there’s reward in our failure. Whenever we act on our old, bad habits we get a sweet, comforting hit of dopamine, before the angst and guilt inevitably set in. This has many of us bypassing the long-term benefits for short-term joy.

This is particularly pertinent at a time of year, namely New Year’s Day, when we’re psychically and physically feeling the pain. It also explains why hair of the dog is so appealing when we have one hell of a hangover.

But enduring a period of discomfort is par for the course when we’re trying to make a change”, says Prof Thiagarajan Sitharthan from NSW Australia.

Reward yourself for progress (not with a vice), keep your eye on the prize and remember the reason you’ve chosen to do it. You’ve got to make a start somewhere. People will always face setbacks, but some turn these setbacks into failures because of a single mistake or slip up and then just give up. It ends with, ‘I tried, but it failed so what’s the point of trying?’ Failure is giving up. Strength and resolution is getting back up and starting again.

“Include slip-ups as part of your resolution. They’re not the end of the world. You just carry on with your journey.” In fact, Sitharthan says it takes most people three or four serious attempts at a goal to get there.

These kinds of changes or will take different people different amounts of time. Many believe that habits can be broken within 4 weeks, but research today shows this not be entirely true, in some cases it can take a year or more to break a habit, and get in to a new routine. Creating a new habit is a skill and takes time to develop. There will be mistakes, setbacks and even resetting, but this does not mean failure. For any type of New Years’ resolution to work, it has to be achievable, not always deal.

“I like the bicycle analogy,’” Sitharthan says. “When someone gets on a bike for the first time, they can rarely ride straight away. You fall down a few times first…  you need training wheels.”

“After two week it gets easier, after two months it gets easier still and after two years it’s a second habit.”

Why not get a buddy to help you with your goals? Having someone to support and encourage you is vital in reaching your goals. It is far easier to be negative on your own and allow those emotions to take over, than with someone who will push and encourage you and keep you on the path.

How often have you said you will happily stop a vice such as drinking, gambling, drugs, smoking, if only person ‘A’ would stop annoying you, or person ‘B’ would just be kinder to you, or you had a person ‘C’ by your side?

You control your own destiny. And using such reasoning is only providing you with the excuse and permission to fail by giving you the opportunity to return to old habits and vices. It sets you up to blame someone else for not being able to reach a goal and gives you permission to feel pity on yourself.  You set goals for you, not for person ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’.

Boredom, loneliness, annoyance or frustration with others is inevitable so we set ourselves up for failure if we adopt a conditional attitude as above.

Instead, we need to accept that there will be obstacles, challenges and, of course, setbacks. This is a journey… keep on going and you will reap the benefits.

Bring on 2013 I say, and everything it has for me. I will make changes in my life; I will face setbacks, reach goals and achievements, fight the good fight, and continue on the path set out before me.

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Writing your own Goodbye…

Living with HIV, many of us have often thought about the day we say farewell to our loved ones and friends. I know I have thought of this many times, especially when I was very sick and in hospital. I went through a stage that I did think it was it, and I sure didn’t want it to BE it. I hadn’t lived the life I wanted to live. I always thought “tomorrow I’ll do something different. Next year will be better. I will change my life direction real soon. There is still time. I’m too tired today, but starting tomorrow I will be a different person.”

What would they say about you? Have ever considered writing your own obituary? Don’t you want to have the final word?

Beaudelaire once said;

“true self-worth is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts simultaneously without losing your mind”.

I have felt the same on occasion crying myself through heartbreaking issues, while also being angry with those who didn’t understand.

We live a fine line between good and evil, in both wanting acceptance, and judging those who refuse or are too blind to provide it.

J.D Meier’s book ‘Getting results the agile way’ talks about setting yourself up for the opportunity to think about how you’d like to be remembered and immediately take stock of your life goals and where you are in making them reality.

We all need a good cry once in a while. It’s in our DNA. Too often we stop the tears to the point that we become too afraid of what would happen if and when we did allow ourselves to cry, sob, grieve and break.

I decided to write my own obituary a while ago. You will ask yourself why on earth I would do such a thing. It’s simple. Allowing yourself the permission to think about death, especially your own, is healthy. It allows you the opportunity, a chance, to evaluate and clear the clouds in our life and focus on what really matters and is important to you. It also gives you a new outlook on what we’re doing with the time we have and if it’s what we really want to be doing with it.

Also, wouldn’t you want some input into what people are going to say about the person you were? I came up with some common questions to consider:

  • How would I like to be described?
  • What am I proud of?
  • What facts are important?
  • Whom and what did I leave behind?
  • What exists because I was here?
  • What were my talents and how did I share them?
  • Who am I grateful for?
  • Who do I want to know I’ve gone and how shall they be notified?

Funnily enough, the first things that came to my mind were things such as bank account numbers and details, general and computer passwords, email contacts and details telling people where to find my important records and files. I also added a special note for a close friend to do a little clearing out of some of my belongings before family members got a hold of my house. (There are things that mums should never see or know about relating to their son), which bills should be paid and commitments to be changed.

Give it a go. Try the following. Firstly write a true account of your life to date. No one needs to see it. This is for you personally to begin with. If you feel more courageous, ask a close friend or family member to write one for you and who you trust to tell it how it is.

Read it over and ask yourself some basic questions; if I die today, would I die happy? What’s missing from my life? What is missing from my obituary?

Next step is to take it to a new level by writing your fantasy obituary. In this one include all the things you wish you had done, the experiences you wish you had.

Finally compare the 2. Are they very different? You’re not dead yet, so get out there and start making changes that you need to so that you can “live up” to your fantasy obituary.

For me it was like a spiritual process. A manual or guide for those I left behind. It also helped me make a life check on where I am and where I want to be, setting realistic goals in achievable chunks. It was in no way a bucket list for my life, it was an awakening.

For some people it will simply be a list of facts that may not be commonly known to everyone. For other it could simply be a reassurance that you lived a life with no regrets. There will be some who want to share a meaningful poem or inspirational quote that formed you into the person you are. Then there are those who want to end it with humour, for example, “a cigarette may shorten your life by two minutes, a beer may shorten your life by four minutes, but a day working in a job you loathe shortens your life by eight hours”.

Take the challenge. It’s surprising how you actually feel afterwards. You may even be surprised that your life is in fact more full of things you always wished for than you allow yourself to believe. It’s a great time to reflect on you and note to yourself that at the end of the day, you really do matter.

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Keep Calm and Get Tested

2.7 million New HIV infections in 2010, including an estimated 390 000 among children. This was 15% less than in 2001, and 21% below the number of new infections at the peak of the epidemic in 1997.

The number of people becoming infected with HIV is continuing to fall, in some countries more rapidly than others. By the end of 2010, 34 million people were estimated to be living with  HIV.

‎There are 25,000 known cases of HIV in Australia. Another estimated 10,000 cases of
undiagnosed HIV. Get tested. Know your status.

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I’m outta Love…

(Warning: this is not a self-help article. It’s not based on any medical research. And it is definitely not a guide to finding love. Now that we have cleared this up, let me talk about what it is…)

I wanted to share with you another vulnerable side of my life that many don’t see or even know about. It is something I disguise well every day and if you ever met me, you would think I was okay. It isn’t easy living with HIV+. There is so much to consider and take into account let alone try to date or find love. I have been single for the best part of 2 years and sexually none active for about the same time.

I joke about it with friends these days and they don’t really know how much it does affect me deep down. I fight fear with humour. I fight loneliness with banter. I fight isolation with lies.

My mind works on 2 parallels. The one that tells my body all is okay and you will be fine and the other that says you are a sad lonely man and this it.

When I was diagnosed with HIV in 2008, I was okay with my sexual and intimate life. I dated and had a few relationships. Yes it took a while to get over the initial diagnosis, but then I was okay. I was careful with whom I dated and aware of what I needed to do in any situation. This may have been due to the idea that I pushed HIV out of my mind even though I was always very careful

It was late last year that reality hit with the realisation that HIV did actually affect my life for the worse and I was forced to really deal with what it meant to live my this Positive Life.

“Our deepest wounds surround our greatest gifts.”

Since then I have found it extremely difficult to get close to anyone intimately and sexually. I just don’t know how to act now that I’m on HIV treatment or how to get close to anyone. There are a few reasons (excuses);

1-      I no longer feel good looking

2-      I am terrified of the rejection which may come

3-      I have a fear of intimacy

4-      Some people I have met who are HIV+ just want random hook-ups (which is fine, but is not me)

5-      I feel like I’ve lost my sexual mojo

6-      I’m diseased, poisonous, deadly, dying worthless

7-      I don’t deserve to love or be loved

8-      I’m a burden on society

(Don’t get me wrong, it’s a mind game that plays in my head often and one I’m dealing with. I know for a fact the above is false.)

Mostly I’m okay with my life, but there are days where I just want to hold someone close to me without any judgement or fear. Not always to be sexually intimate with someone, but just to hold someone close. Being in a relationship involves trusting someone, being vulnerable and being compatible.

My mind tells me often that people make the assumption, if you have HIV or an STI, then you can’t find love or be intimate with anyone, or that you are dirty, a sleaze and probably deserve to be infected. What makes this even less true is the same exaggerated assumptions I often put on myself.

Stigma is real on so many different levels, but self-inflicted stigma is actually doing you more harm than anything the world will throw at you.

Everyone deserves love, and everyone deserves respect. My turn will come. It’s not just going to knock on my door. I need to get out there and stop being so down on myself and allow people to see me for who I am, and what I am.

I have been looking online to see what sites are available to people who are in the same situation and “looking for love”.  There is plenty to choose from and I commend the developers who start these sites with all good intentions. Sadly though 9 out of 10 guys who are also on these sites are there for one thing that usually means quick random anonymous unprotected sexual encounters. I haven’t met (or hooked up) with any of these guys. It’s just not my thing or who I am.

The same can be said for many sites that don’t seem to encourage love, but thrive on the idea of ‘hooking-up’ for a one nighter. Please don’t get me wrong. We all have needs and desires these sites cater for. I have nothing against them in anyway, just don’t advertise love if you really just advertising sex. It makes the whole process even more difficult for people like me who genuinely want to find love.

Then you have the groups for singles and HIV men. This is great, but again some of the guys who attend these are there for a quick sexual satisfaction.

Again, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be judgemental or have an issue with this. I have actually made some effort to try to connect to people using these services. Unfortunately, out of the few people I have connected with met, it has always been the same want on their behalf, “I’m just here to hook-up”.

Being HIV doesn’t mean you can’t date or have a meaningful sexual relationship any more, it simply means you have to be more aware. Just remember there is a difference between awareness and self-inflicted rejection.

I am normal; I just carry some baggage which has its limitations, not road blocks. Like me, we all need to allow life to happen to us. Time waits for no-one, so the more isolated you become, the MORE isolated you become. I have lived an isolated life from fear, and it’s time to get my head out of the slum and into the light.

Recently I made the conscious decision to get out of my dark comfort zone. Although they are baby steps, they are steps. I have recently connected with someone who seems to be on the same page as me. He is a little older than me, which is fine. We seem to share the same desires with the same limitations life throws at us. It has only been now that I have started to truly see that I am not alone in this quest to find that someone (and neither are you!).

We have chatted on the phone and via text message over the last little while (we haven’t actually met face to face just yet) and who knows where this may lead. But I have felt more comfortable talking to him as the days have gone by. At no stage has there been any request to hook-up. Actually we have talked about meeting up for lunch or even a coffee to just chat and meet face to face. WOW, people like this do exist.

For me to make face to face contact will be a huge hurdle, especially with someone who has shown some interest in me already and is also HIV. As I mentioned at the start, I don’t feel like I deserve to meet him or anyone like this most days. But I will get past this and face this fear of rejection and meet him. Who knows, maybe in the near future I will be writing about love in a different way?

Finally…Don’t let HIV hold you back. It’s time to love and be loved.

I think it’s time to start dating again…

 “If you’re looking for love, try to discover your own gifts.  They shine in your joys and strengths, but they also live-and hide-right in the heart of your greatest insecurities and heartbreaks. If you learn to lead with them in your dating life, you will find-almost without trying– that you’re experiencing mutual attractions with people who love and treasure the very gifts you’re discovering.” © 2011 Ken Page,LCSW. All Rights Reserved (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-love/201109/how-your-greatest-insecurities-reveal-your-deepest-gifts)

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Grrr…

I have no fight in me these last few days. I have no desire to be anything right now.  I’m done with HIV! I need a break, a release. But HIV doesn’t rest, it doesn’t stop, it never gives up.

ENOUGH!

Feeling a little down and isolated. I know it’s in my head, but that doesn’t stop what I feel.

No idea why I’m feeling like this? I sometimes think my health is going backwards also, but medically it isn’t. I am healthier, stronger and fitter than I have ever been.

Maybe I have added too many high expectations on me that only I see.

IS THIS A MID LIFE CRISIS?!

Gotta get my body and head out of this cycle for a few days to detox and clear my soul. Somewhere with no phone or internet.

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Something New with my Blog

I have been honored by the Positive Lite website to become a regular contributor to their amazing site dealing with the daily lives of positive people.

Check out their AMAZING site here: www.positivelite.com 

You can find my bio here:

http://positivelite.com/content/by-author/editorial-authors/nathaniel-casco

I feel blessed that I am able to further extend my life as a HIV+ man and continue to share some of my daily struggles.  My most recent post is here:

http://positivelite.com/content/news/news-sections/living-with-hiv/item/my-hiv-journey

I will continue to post here, but will have an extended branch with my new friends

Much love to all my followers and readers.

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There’s something about Tina

Before being diagnosed with HIV in March 2008, there was a time in my life that I felt invincible. I could do anything, and nothing would hurt me. I was a free spirit, or so I thought until I met Tina.

Tina was different in every way. She had such a free spirit that I had never experienced, and she became such an integral part of my life that nothing would stop us catching up. I often went on long trips to escape this world with Tina to almost vanish from the reality of life. I won’t lie, the early days were phenomenal, euphoric and exciting but we got bored quickly and needed more to entertain us.

When I first met Tina, I didn’t pay much attention to her. I was my own person and thought that I didn’t need her in my life. That quickly changed as I got to know her more intimately over a short time. We often got drunk together and enjoy each other’s company. Time was of no concern for us.

My boyfriend at the time also knew Tina, but his relationship with her was different to mine. I didn’t fully understand his relationship with her, but I didn’t let it bother me overly because Tina and I had our own thing going and I loved it. All 3 of us often spent time together; having insane wild sex for days at a time (literally).

My boyfriend would sometime want to bring another into our sex life and this always made me uncomfortable, even with Tina there. He knew this but still kept pushing the boundary to try to get others in. Sometimes he would get his way and it would destroy me, but Tina made me feel better about myself. She gave me an increased alertness, confidence and libido, more energy, feelings of increased strength and I would become more talkative.

Tina and I would smoke ridiculous amounts when she was around. Consume way too much alcohol and occasionally introduce other drugs into our play.

She became my all, towards the end of 2007, when I broke up with my long term boyfriend just before Christmas.

 “Tina gave me a new fresh meaning and focus in life.”

Looking back at our time together, I can say today that it is NOT true! Her meaning is dark, a cloud of smoke that isolates you from everything.

Tina encourages extra curricula activities in the dark aspects of life, and knows exactly how to maintain a hold on you. Under her spell she made it difficult to sleep, eat, and even hold a proper conversation with anyone. She sneakily provided feelings of anxiety and nervousness about nothing, paranoia and even irritability and aggression.

I will admit it wasn’t easy walking away from Tina. Our time together was wild, crazy, uninhibited and dirty. I no longer have contact or play with Tina. I haven’t seen her since June 2008 a few months after my HIV diagnoses. She knew about my HIV but it didn’t bother her. She actually used it to use her advantage occasionally. But I did somehow walk away; I had other things to deal with.

Many HIV+ people still keep in contact with her and that’s their choice. Just remember she is so cunning, that she knows how to use our weaknesses to her advantage. I should also say that I don’t blame Tina for my HIV+, although she played a big role in it.

Who is Tina?

Tina comes in many guises, and often all too silently. She creeps into your life and before you know it, will take over. Tina is not her real name; it’s one of many pseudo names we give her. She sometimes comes to you in a stunning white gown that is immaculate and pure. But more often comes is shabby clothes that are a little earthier, sometimes with hints of blue, pink or even green. She has addictive and expensive tastes and often requires you to pay with more than money which may have effects legally, with work, and other personally connections.

Tina demands change in your life with total submission both physical and/or psychological. She has different personalities when alone or in a group. If or when you meet her, she will tend to have an effect on you instantly.

Tina’s beauty is what gives her a desperate desire in all who know her and once you have met; it is very hard to ignore or walk away from her. Her gaze is intoxicatingly addictive. She will impact your health and relationships with others.

She doesn’t discriminate. She knows how to rock your world. She has no rules. She fills your glass with toxins and ooze, speeds up your libido and clouds your future with a chalky haze envied.

Tina is very promiscuous, encouraging unsafe sex that increases the chances of STI’s, HIV, AIDS and HEP B and C.

But let’s be honest here, her other names include ice, meth, d-meth, crystal, crystal meth, crack, shabu, shabs and glass.

Why meet with Tina?

  • You love the taste of laundry detergent and lighter fluid in the morning.
  • You have the ability to completely sanitize and sterilize your entire neighborhood every single day, no questions asked, all by yourself.
  • You want it to be the, ‘End of the World as we know it’.
  • You hope that someday one of your injections will finally infect you with the gift of HIV which you will be able to pass on to others.
  • You want to prove to your family you can win against a heart attack, keep a straight face during a massive stroke, and will not giggle like a sissy during the tingling sensation of blood vessels bursting beneath your skin.
  • You know that monsters hide under your bed and in the closet, and ninjas will attack you when you leave your house, and you have mental proof that you can actually see them!
  • Because… well, you forgot why.
  • Malnutrition and rapid weight loss due to reduced appetite is the in thing.
  • Sleeping is just time being wasted.
  • Reduced immunity and increased susceptibility to infections due to the person not sleeping or eating properly is so cool.
  • You need help beating the crap out of your better half, chewing out your friends, and slugging your mom in the face.
  • You want to constantly be host to viruses, bacteria, and other microscopic monstrosities, some of which crawl just under your skin and you must get them out!
  • You enjoy vegetables so much, you want to be one!
  • You want to feel worthless, all alone, and a failure. So why not add anti-depressants to the mix?
  • Your dentures will be easier to clean than your rotting teeth.
  • Nature gave you two kidneys, might as well get rid of one. Or why not both?
  • You want to see dead people, or purple people, or flying rabid bunnies. Maybe you just want Santa Clause to exist again.
  • Finally…who can turn down a drug you can smoke, snort, and shoot up… all at once!

What is Tina?

Like a hooker in the night, she will wonder the streets looking for you. Tina mostly goes by the name of ‘Ice’, which is her street name for crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride, which is a powerful, synthetic stimulant drug. Stimulant drugs speed up the messages going to and from the brain.

Ice is a powerful form of amphetamines. It is more pure than the powder form of methamphetamine (‘speed’). It can cause brain damage (there is some evidence that amphetamines may damage brain cells resulting in reduced memory function and other impairments in thinking).

Smoking it can damage the lungs. Snorting it can damage the lining of the nose. Injecting it can lead to scarring, abscesses and vein damage (sharing injecting equipment increases the risk of contracting blood-borne viruses, such as Hepatitis B and C, and HIV.)

Something we don’t always think of is that driving under the influence of Ice is extremely dangerous. People who use ice can quickly develop a tolerance to the drug so that increasingly greater doses are needed to achieve the desired effects.

Ice is illegal all around the world and carries various penalties for possessing, using, making or selling ice.

Do you want to let Tina go?

For me personally it wasn’t easy to say goodbye to Tina. I fortunately had a close friend who was concerned about my relationship with her, so they intervened for my own safety and health. Took me in and just look after me. There was never any anger or disgust from them, just love and true support. I moved away from my Tina circles and started the road to recovery. If I hadn’t made the change back then I really don’t know where I would be right now, but I know I would not be writing this.

If you are using ice regularly, it will be affecting your life in a negative way, try to get some help to get it under control. If you have problems with insomnia for more than a week or two, or you have ongoing feelings of anxiety, agitation or restlessness which is increasing your risk of using meth again, pay a visit to your doctor for support. (It may be a good idea to talk to a doctor, drug and alcohol worker or other health worker about the treatment options that are best for you.)

Consider on-going counseling to help you stay away from Tina. Withdrawal is just the first step on a long road, so go and talk to someone for treatment options.

Once you decide to say goodbye

  • Be prepared and be kind to yourself.
  • Watch your mood.
  • Remember why you’re stopping
  • Get some good food into you.
  • Use a network of trusted friends for support and have them close to you
  • Take leave from work, school, or whatever it is you do so you have some space.  Switch off the phone and limit visitors (support people are fine). You’re likely to be tired and irritable so give yourself plenty of personal space and remember to rest as much as you can.
  • Watch for symptoms of depression and if symptoms hang around, become severe or you start to think about hurting yourself in any way get professional help straight away.
  • Remind yourself of the benefits of not using meth– stick a list on the wall.
  • Do whatever you can to maintain your commitment so you can get through this.
  • Get specialist help if you need it.

Feeling Tina withdrawal

The come down from Tina usually lasts no longer than a few days. You may tend to sleep and eat a bit more than usual, and can feel flat, jumpy, edgy or irritable.  It’s the Tina equivalent to a ‘hangover’ from alcohol. But she is very sneaky. Other symptoms may include; feeling moody or flat, right through to being severely depressed, having a total lack of energy, lethargy, exhaustion or getting no enjoyment or pleasure from usual activities. You can also have an increase in aches and pains and insomnia.

Do something good for your body, and turn your back on Tina. She isn’t worth it. She will make it hard for you, and sometimes almost impossible, but it is possible. To this day, Tina still haunts me. I still think back to the ’good times’, and every now and then find myself thinking I should give her a call. I don’t, but she will forever linger in my mind.

Okay now I know some of the readers still have contact with Tina. I’m not judging you in anyway what so ever. This is just my story. If I met you in the street and knew you were close friends with Tina, that’s okay, I would still love you the same way.

Related articles:

http://au.reachout.com/find/articles/ice-crystal-methamphetamine-hydrochloride

http://www.meth.org.au/

http://thegecko.hubpages.com/hub/Why-You-Should-Become-a-Meth-Addict

Video on Meth – http://www.smh.com.au/tv/Documentary/Meth-4262204.html

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Fighting the good fight with Atripla, reps and fitness

English: Arthur Saxon performing a bent press....

English: Arthur Saxon performing a bent press.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Living with HIV has presented many challenges and changes to my lifestyle. One of the most important is my complete health.  I ignored my HIV for almost 4 years, and this had detrimental effects on my health. It wasn’t that I was being promiscuous or treating my body badly, it’s just that I pushed HIV so far back in my mind, that I no longer thought about it, or even what I had to do about it.

June 2011, I decided that I needed to kick my health into a better place. I finally quit smoking, which was surprisingly easy for me personally, I ate less junk food and I joined a gym ( there is a big difference between joining a gym and actually using a gym).

In my mind I was focusing on the right path, when it all came crashing down. I started to get really sick, and over the course of about 5 weeks, my health really deteriorated. By October 2011, I was hospitalized with possible TB. It was now that the HIV fear kicked in, was I dying? Blood was taken and within 24hrs results were back.

My CD4 count was below 40 and my viral in excess of 330,000 copies.

After a few more days in hospital it was confirmed that I had PCP (Pneumocystis pneumonia), which is an AIDS related chest infection.  After a few more in days in hospital i was released, with strict instruction on weekly clinic visits to monitor my blood and health.

I finally was brought into reality that HIV is real in my life, and that I need to be aware of so much. I started reading a lot about dietary, fitness, mental and general health suggestions for PLHIV (People living with HIV). A few months ago I started attending Boot Camp (group fitness) sessions twice a week.  These are low impact and good for general health. The clinic where I go for my medications and blood tests actually thought this was great, as the sessions are low impact and great to start to strengthen the body, especially because I had just started on ARVTs (Anti Retro-Viral Treatment)

After the first 2 months, I already felt my body getting stronger, and more responsive. I started attending the gym also and doing a Cycle spin class. The first time I did it, I nearly died. But I kept at it, and again could feel my body strength building.

When I hit the 4 month mark with this semi-intense training, my personal trainer asked if I wanted to take it to the next level. I had already hinted I wanted to do this but was comfortable at my current pace, or you may say complacent.

Now I have 2 Personal Training sessions a week, plus Boot Camp after these sessions.  These are full on, one on one training sessions and are total killers. I also still hit the gym for the Spin class, and try to get there on a separate day/night for weights. Believe it or not, I’m stronger today with HIV than I have ever been in my entire life.

So how does all this relate to HIV and help fight the virus?

It is possible to slow down HIV virus and improve your health. For many years HIV/AIDS was considered as the vanishing virus and you would slowly disappear and waste into nothing and not be able to do anything about it. Living with HIV is challenging on so many levels. No two people with HIV are exactly the same.

Today with proper treatment and healthier habits and basic exercise this is no longer true. PLHIV can slow down the HIV infections and improve their health by doing a few simple things.

  1. Eat Healthy
  2. Manage stress
  3. Plenty of sleep
  4. Regular exercise

To do this is as simple as exercising 2-4 times a week to help strengthen your body.  You are also less likely to develop AIDS than those who do nothing. Exercise can also help slow down the progression of the HIV virus and maintain your CD4 counts.

Getting enough exercise is sometimes hard. When you start though keep in mind a few things like your current level of fitness, what HIV treatment you are on (if any) and how can you make this a fun process. Be realistic and set achievable goals. If you have never really exercised in your life and expect to be an Olympic athlete in 2 weeks, then you will fail. So aim for something you can do, like, ‘today I can do only 1 or 2 push-ups. In 2 weeks I will do 5 push-ups’, and so on.

My current exercise regime has already given me some results. I’m seeing a decrease in bad body fat, including the body fat that you get from ARVTs around the belly, my blood pressure and heart rates are perfect, and from my regular blood tests my cholesterol and sugars are exactly where they have to be for a healthy fit person. I’m not having any adverse reactions to Atripla. I have also heard regular exercise decreases the chances of some cancers as well as general anxiety, tension and depression.  It’s really a win/win all the way.

HIV hasn’t been a bad thing in my life.  There was a time of depression, ignorance and fear, but today it has given me reason to live, to better myself and to improve my health and life.  Today I’m a better, stronger person for it.

How can this help you whether or not you have HIV?

Before you start, know your state of health and consult your doctor. Listen to your body, for example if you really are not feeling well are feverish, dizzy, have swollen joints, pain in your feet or hands, vomiting, diarrhoea, open sores, bleeding gums, or blood in the urine or stool, do not exercise and seek medical attention, know when to stop, be patient with yourself and give your body the respect it needs to repair and recover after a workout.

Set achievable goals. To set them, start with a baseline. Write down what you can do today and aim to better every 2 weeks or month.

Once you have seen your doctor and set goals, it is time to get started.

If you have been exercising, that’s great. Keep it up, and whatever you do, try not to stop exercising. If you are new to exercise, start slowly. Your body needs time to adjust to the new stresses you are putting on it, not to mention all the stress already on your body. It is also important when exercising to keep your body well hydrated.

Keep in mind to avoid over training.  Although exercise improves your overall health, over-training can have a negative effect on someone with HIV, such as the loss of lean body mass (muscle) and suppression of immune responses.  If you are feeling worse and not better, then you should take some time off training.  If in a few day you do not start to feel better, see you doctor again. Pay attention to your body. If you start to get short of breath or hurt somewhere, stop what you are doing.

People with HIV are at risk of osteoporosis – conditions in which the bones become softer and more easily broken. Exercise can help maintain and build bone density, so it is actually recommended for people with these conditions. However, it’s important to choose the right kind.

DO: so-called weight-bearing exercises, in which you are working against gravity. These include weight training, walking and jogging, stair climbing, and low-impact aerobics – also skipping and trampolining. Swimming and cycling, while good for your heart, do not help combat thinning bones. Get expert advice about your exercise routine.

AVOID: high-impact activities like boxing, and movements that involve a lot of flexing or twisting of the spine. These types of activities can stress the bones and run the risk of breakage.

Types of training you can do:

Cardiovascular training or aerobic training involves activities of moderate intensity that use the major muscle groups for an extended period of time (12 minutes or more). These activities can include walking, running, swimming, riding and group fitness classes.

Resistance training or strength training can help add muscle mass, or develop the muscle mass you already have. Resistance training should be done three or four days per week, including 10-12 major muscles or muscle groups in your training session. This is important as the proteins in muscle play an important role in your body’s immune system. Muscle wasting is a problem for many people with HIV and resistance training can slow down or reverse this process. Resistance training will increase the size of the muscle fibres all over the body.

Flexibility training helps with overall joint and body movementAs people grow older, they lose flexibility. Nevertheless, flexibility training is often the most neglected part of someone’s workout. Flexibility training allows you to get so much more out of your normal training sessions. Stretching exercises can play a vital role in helping you maintain your muscle mass and your muscle tone. Stress management and pain control are added benefits to regular flexibility training. You should always warm up first before doing stretching exercises. If you don’t warm up first, and stretch cold muscles, you risk injuring them.

Balance training is often easiest to do with a partner. HIV medication often affects your neuromuscular activities. HIV and some HIV medications can affect your neuromuscular activities. You may notice your sense of balance changing or you have trouble walking or standing still at times. Balance training simply entails putting your body in positions that challenge your sense of balance. It could be as simple as standing in the middle of the room with your eyes closed. You could also stand on one leg and change the positions of your arms – all of this retrains your muscles and nerves to balance again. This can be done daily, but you should have supervision.

Mind-body fitness training is one of the newest trends in the fitness industry. Mind-body fitness is the integration of the your mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical awareness into one component. Many Eastern philosophies have done this for years in the forms of yoga, T’ai Chi, martial arts, and meditation. It can be seen is some Western disciplines in visualization and ballet bar stretches. These mind-body activities can help you create a connection between what is going on with your body and your emotions and feelings, and help with stress management.

 

At the end of the day, exercise is going to do you good.  You will feel stronger and better about everything.  So get off your Ass and start working it.

Related articles

Please also visit these sites; some of the information above has been derived from them:

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