Positive Health

BodyPositiveWebsite_Logo_400Thirty years ago human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was relatively unknown, misunderstood, feared, untreatable and often fatal.

Originally thought to be Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a relatively benign cancer that tended to occur in older people, it was detected most regularly in younger men and was much more aggressive.

These days, far more is understood about HIV throughout the world. If you have only recently learned that you are HIV-positive, you may be feeling shocked, frightened, angry or upset. It may help to know that there are men and women from all over New Zealand, and from all walks of life, who are HIV-positive.

HIV-positive people are from many different cultural and religious backgrounds, of all ages, sexualities, with and without partners, spouses, or families.

Nowadays, more and more people with HIV are enjoying healthy and fulfilling lives, working, studying, having relationships and making their own choices about treatment. There is a relatively low prevalence of HIV in New Zealand with less than two hundred cases diagnosed annually.

Being HIV-positive is not the same as having AIDS (acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome). AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV disease. If diagnosed early, starting treatment, and adhering to the prescribed medication, people can stay healthy and prevent the virus from developing further.

The drugs used to treat HIV are called anti-retrovirals and they are used in combinations to suit each person. The drugs do have side effects and some individuals find more difficulties with them than others. There may be some trial and error before the right combination of drugs are found.

Symptoms such as headaches, diarrhoea and lethargy are sometimes associated with anti-retroviral medication but can be easily alleviated.

One of the most effective herbs in treating headache pain is white willow bark. This is the plant which gave us salicylic acid, the basis for aspirin. But, unlike the pharmaceutical medicine, white willow bark is gentle on the stomach and safe to use with other medication.

Depleted energy levels can dramatically impact daily life. There are many herbs which can boost energy without the comedown that comes from caffeine and other stimulants.

Rhodiola is a herb which has a proven track record in enhancing physical and mental energy and helps to relieve fatigue, poor appetite, irritability and depression.

For some people, diarrhoea may be an issue and can lead to the increased risk of dehydration. Electrolytes – such as potassium, sodium and magnesium ions – are essential to health and are depleted by diarrhoea.

Ways of replacing electrolytes include oral rehydration liquids which do not contain sugar as this can worsen diarrhoea. Good gut bacteria can also be affected in cases of prolonged diarrhoea so a high quality strain of probiotics is essential in supporting the digestive and immune systems.

Body Positive is a group founded by and run for women and men living with HIV and AIDS. They welcome all people living with HIV and AIDS in New Zealand.

They break down the isolation and help build a sense of community while advocating on behalf of HIV-positive people on a national level.

Body Positive is staffed by people with the unique perspective of “knowing first hand” what it is like to live with the virus and the issues surrounding being HIV-positive.

For more information, contact Body Positive at http://www.bodypositive.org.nz.