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Positive Peers by Nicole Blair - 2w ago

We talked in an earlier blog post how learning to meditate won’t magically cure all your problems, but that doesn’t mean it can’t help improve your life! There are a lot of benefits to learning how to meditate, including helping with all the stress and anxiety that comes with living with HIV.

There are a lot of misconceptions about meditation, but the most common one is that all meditation involves is clearing your mind of thought or just letting your mind wander. In reality, meditation is about being present and living in the moment, being present in what’s happening both around you and inside you. That includes your thoughts, emotions, and any sensations you feel.

The great thing about meditation is that anyone can learn to do it, and it can be practiced anywhere. It won’t take long for mediation to make a difference in your life.

What are some of the benefits of meditation?

But how do we start meditating?

Set aside time

The best way to start meditating is to make it a part of your routine. All you need to do is find a time each day when you’re able to make yourself comfortable enough to meditate. Both short and longer meditation sessions will help. All it takes is just a few minutes each day to make a difference in your life!

The time of day you choose to meditate doesn’t matter as being consistent about it. You can try meditating first thing in the morning, right before bed, or even on your lunch break at work. After all, meditation can be done anywhere.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you forget to meditate sometimes. Life happens, and we’re all busy people with tons to do. It’s also okay if you one day decide meditating is no longer for you.

Here are some tips on how to meditate and set aside time in your schedule:

  • Use the calendar app on your phone to remind yourself to meditate.
  • If you want to develop a habit, the best time to do something is first thing in the morning. This way, you don’t get the chance to talk yourself out of it. Try meditating after you brush your teeth or washing your face.
  • Keep your meditation goals reasonable! Setting your goal too high is setting yourself up for failure. Meditating five minutes each day is better than meditating a half hour once a week.
  • If you’re a busy person with an unpredictable schedule, meditate when you can! Eventually, you’ll find a time that works for you.

Breathing

Meditation doesn’t require you to sit on a pillow in an empty room full of candles. Unless you want to, of course. Your breathing is a far more important part of meditation.

You can start by focusing on just your breath while doing something else, such as washing the dishes or making your bed. Don’t worry about controlling your breathing. Instead, focus on how you usually breathe while staying present in the moment.

While you’re breathing, think about how your body moves each time you inhale and exhale. Think about how your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly all move each time you breathe.

If your mind begins to wander while you’re meditating, focusing on your breathing is a great way to bring yourself back to the present.

3 simple steps on how to meditate
  1. Find a comfortable place to sit and close your eyes.
  2. Focus on your breathing. Focus on each inhale and exhale.
  3. Your mind may start to wander. If it does, bring your attention back to your breathing.

Find an app

An app may help if you find yourself struggling with meditation. A lot of them are free, though some of them limit what you can do if you don’t subscribe to them. Some of the apps even have music and a guide to help you meditate.

Give these apps a try:

Get to know yourself

There is no right way to meditate because it’s a little different for everyone. There are even different types of meditation. It’s okay if you struggle with meditation. Try finding an activity that helps you remain present. Washing the dishes, drawing, doing a puzzle, jogging, anything can become a mindful activity if it keeps you present.

The most important thing is how your mind and body feel. Make sure you’re checking in with yourself often. Meditation will help you get to know yourself better and love yourself more!

Related Blogs:

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative. Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.

The post Learning how to meditate appeared first on Positive Peers.

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If you took health class back in school, you probably heard the word nutrition tossed around a lot. Maybe you’ve even seen it written on the side of a box of cereal or canned food. Just what is nutrition though?

We’re going to get a little technical for a moment, but we swear it’s important! Basically, nutrition is what your body uses to repair your body tissue, build muscle tissue, and grow. It keeps your mind, brain, and bones strong. Nutrition is what keeps you healthy, and it’s found in the food you eat. Which is why a healthy diet is so important!

What you eat can really alter how you feel and how much energy you have both today and in the future. It even has an impact on how our bodies work. For example, studies have found that eating nutritious food will help maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of chronic disease down the line.

Nutrition and HIV

You already know how important it is to take care of your health when you’re living with HIV. Good nutrition helps with that! It will help improve your immune system and your overall health.

Unfortunately, living with HIV and taking HIV meds can actually cause you to have problems related to nutrition. If you get an opportunistic infection, you may even have trouble eating or swallowing. Your metabolism might change, making it easy to lose or gain weight, and your meds sometimes have side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

Practicing good nutrition makes it easier for you to keep a healthy weight, which helps your body better absorb your HIV medications.

Healthy diets when you’re living with HIV

So what does a healthy diet look like? We talked a little bit before about how no single food will supply all the nutrition your body needs. To stay healthy, you need food from each of the five food groups, which are the fruit, vegetable, grain, protein, and dairy groups. Your focus should be on the variety, amount, and nutrients needed to keep yourself healthy.

Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day is necessary to keep healthy. When choosing what fruits and veggies to eat, eat a variety of colors like red, orange, and dark green. Look for dairy products that are low in fat, and try to eat proteins that are lean, like seafood and poultry. Nuts are also full of nutrients, but make sure you portion them!

It’s important to eat the right amount of food each day. Neither too little or too much food is healthy for you. Drink a lot of water to keep hydrated, and avoid or cut back on alcohol or sweetened drinks.

When you’re shopping for healthy foods and beverages, look for things with less sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat. Keep in mind that sugary drinks like soda are one of the most fattening things you can consume, and fruit juices are nearly as bad. Keep the amount you drink as low as possible.

Don’t skip meals

Skipping meals is one of the worst things you can do if you’re trying to be healthy because it leads to snacking or eating large meals, which can raise your blood sugar. When your blood sugar gets raised, your fat storage increases. Gaining or losing weight is common when you’re living with HIV. It may sometimes help to track what you eat to see if your body is getting enough nutrients and calories each day.

There also have been studies that show if you want to boost your metabolism, it’s better to eat several small meals throughout the day rather than three bigger ones.

Consult your doctor

There’s a lot of info on the internet about what’s healthy and what’s not, but it can be hard to know what’s real, especially if people don’t cite their sources. This is a situation where talking to your doctor can really help. They can refer you to a dietitian who understand that each body is different and can help you make a plan that’s best for you!

Some recipe ideas

To help you get started on your nutrition-filled journey, we found three healthy dinner recipes you’re going to love!

Do you feel hungry yet?!

Help your body thrive

It’s common to feel like you don’t have a lot of control over your own life. Something you can control is what you put in your body to keep it fueled, happy, and healthy. Eating healthy and nutritious food doesn’t have to mean eating plain lettuce and flavorless rice cakes. With a little thought and effort, you can eat tasty, healthy meals that will help your body thrive!

Related Blogs:

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative. Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.

The post Nurture yourself with good nutrition appeared first on Positive Peers.

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A lot of us really love animals and for a good reason! Spending time with animals comes with more benefits than you might realize. They can help improve our self-esteem and feel better about our lives too. Not to mention the fact that having a pet gives you a strong sense of purpose.

Maybe you’ve noticed that when you’re around animals, your mood is better and you feel calmer than you did before. That’s because there’s a connection between being around animals and a boost in your mental health.

Petting cats, dogs, bunnies, and other fuzzy critters are actually good for you. Spending time with animals releases oxytocin in your brain, a hormone that makes you happy, and lowers cortisol, a hormone that causes stress.

There are a lot of different ways of connection with animals benefits us. Keep reading to figure out how your pets and other animals can make a difference in your life!

Volunteer

Most cities have an animal shelter, if not more than one. While they have employees, a lot of animal shelters rely on volunteers to help out with a lot of the work. If you decide to volunteer at a shelter, you get to spend a lot of time with animals and make some human friends along the way. Also, if you’re looking for a way to fit more exercise into your schedule, walking shelter dogs is an awesome way to sneak it in.

Many different animal shelters let you train for different volunteer jobs, which can help you find a job at the shelter you love. Best of all, you can put the fact that you volunteer, along with all those new skills you’ve learned, on your résumé!

Here are just a few of the animal shelters in Northeast Ohio to check out:

Volunteering can be really hard, emotional work, but in the end, it will make you feel good knowing you’re helping animals out in need.

Foster a Pet

Animal shelters can fill up pretty quickly, so they often need people to foster animals to make more room. If you live somewhere that allows animals, consider becoming an animal foster parent!

Fostering a pet is a great way to spend more time with animals if you aren’t quite ready to adopt one yet or simply like the idea of helping many animals out.

It’s important to know that fostering an animal probably won’t be free. The shelter might pay for the animal’s medical expenses, but you’ll likely still need to provide things like food, cat litter, and toys.

Besides caring for your foster pet, you’ll also help give it some structure and plenty of love, getting it ready for its forever family. Marketing the pet online and to friends and family looking for a pet also helps it find the perfect home!

Something to think about before fostering an animal is if you get easily attached. If you think you’ll struggle to say goodbye when the time comes, fostering animals may not be right for you.

Visit a pet-friendly place

There are a lot of public places you can go to spend time with animal friends. Cat Cafés have boomed and are everywhere now. The cats sleep and play around you while you enjoy your coffee, tea, and snacks. Check out the affoGATO Cat Café here in Cleveland!

Many restaurants and bars allow dogs, especially on outdoor patios. Visiting your local pet store will always guarantee some much-needed time with animals.

If all else fails, there’s always the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo! If you want to do more than just a day trip, they have more than 100 volunteer opportunities. Check them out.

Use an app

Do you like the idea of spending time with animals and getting paid? Well, it’s entirely possible if you use apps like Rover or Wag to animal-sit!

The apps normally require you to have a background check and a few reviews up. Once you get the ball rolling, you should be able to find clients in your neighborhood or nearby who love for you to watch their pets, walk their dogs, and keep an eye on their homes while they’re away on vacation.

If you enjoy taking care of people’s pets, maybe you’ll consider a job working with animals someday.

Help out friends and family

If you’ve had pets before, you know they’re a lot of work. Letting your friends and family know you’re willing to watch their pets while they’re away is another great way to get in some quality animal time. All the fun without the extended responsibility!

Find the best fit

While spending time with animals is worthwhile physically and mentally, we aren’t telling you to go out and adopt a pet right now. Pets can be expensive and a lot of responsibility, and there are so many other ways to spend time with them that will bring you joy. Find the best option for you and your lifestyle and enjoy those pet snuggles!

Related Blogs:

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative. Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.

The post 5 ways to spend time with animals if you’re an animal lover appeared first on Positive Peers.

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As kids, most of us had huge imaginations. We colored, drew, and let our imaginations take us anywhere we could think. We could have fun for hours on end being creative and letting our minds go wild. Sadly, it gets harder to stay creative and channel creative thinking as we get older. Life happens, and we have responsibilities.

It turns out that finding time to be creative as an adult can be really rewarding! Did you know that creatively expressing yourself can be a form of self-care? Also, creativity can help if you have depression or anxiety and even bring some joy into your life.

A lot of people don’t think they’re very creative, but that isn’t true. It’s human nature to want to express ourselves, but it may be hard to get excited about it if something you’ve made has ever been unfairly critiqued or criticized. So how do we learn to nurture our creative sides as adults?

Set up a dedicated space

Having a place in your home to work on your craft can help your creative thinking. Surrounded by your craft and art supplies, it’ll get you in the right mindset to think creatively. Your new hobby might not even be something in the home, and that’s fine! Working in your garden, dancing in a studio, going on hikes, or anything else that excites your brain are all great options too.

It’s okay if it takes you a while to find something that interests you, or if you end up like several different creative things. It’s all a process!

Be brave and take a risk

Pick a new activity to try and see how it makes you feel. Getting it wrong should be the last thing you worry about because, with enough time and practice, you’ll get better at anything.

If you’ve ever wanted to try something, like improv or volleyball or singing, now is your chance. It’s okay if it makes you nervous as long as you feel excited about it too. Don’t let that little voice inside your head try to tell you shouldn’t or you can’t because that just isn’t true. You can! You don’t want to live with the regret of not doing something that could make your life some much better.

Give up perfectionism

Life is never going to be perfect, and neither are you. You’ll just make yourself miserable if you put all your effort into perfectionism. You can always try to improve yourself and be a better person, but embracing imperfection will make you a much happier person. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to handle the hurdles life throws your way more easily and will feel less frustration when you aren’t good at something right away. Just because you aren’t immediately good at something doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.

It’s the journey, not the destination

We’re often our own worst enemies when it comes to our wishes and desires. Trying too hard and not finding the time to relax when things don’t go like we want them to it doesn’t help. A lot of us are just too hard on ourselves without reason to be. When it comes to creativity, the journey is more important than the destination.

Like a journey, the inner process is what really matters. It should come from your soul and not your fears. Your fears will just hold you back.

How do you begin?

There are actually a lot of different ways you can bring creativity and creative thinking into your life. Free-writing is a good exercise to try if you aren’t sure where to begin, and all you need is a pen and paper. When you have some time, start writing everything going on inside your head. Don’t try to censor yourself because that won’t help you let go of any heavy feelings you’re holding onto. A good way to start is journaling or even blogging.

If you’re more interested in art, try painting or drawing whatever you’re feeling at the time. It doesn’t have to be exact and can just be a representation of love, stress, or other feelings. Don’t worry about keeping it neat — painting outside the lines is a great way to express your feelings!

Finding an activity that lets you move your body is another great idea. Dance and exercise help get you out of your head and into the present. Listening to some music or an audiobook may help too. Stretching beforehand will help begin the process of creating joy through physical activity, and spending time outside while hiking can bring inspiration.

Everybody has to eat, right? Taking up cooking or baking is a great creative activity to try. Most areas offer cooking classes, or you can ask someone you know to teach you. Trying out new recipes or coming up with your own is a lot of fun.

Entertainment is a creative outlet a lot of people enjoy. Starting a book or movie club is not only a way to express yourself, but also allows you to meet a lot of new people. Writing a book is one of the most creative things you can do. Joining an improv team or a theater group is great forms of expression that make you feel alive.

If that isn’t enough, try going somewhere you can scream until you feel better or yell everything you’re feeling. Sometimes the primal expression is the way to go!

Embracing life and yourself

Creativity and creative thinking are awesome ways to gauge where you’re at in life and the direction you’re heading. It can also help you figure out the world you live in and help to solve the difficult things going on in your life.

It’s okay if you aren’t ready to share your creativity with anyone else yet, or ever. What you do or create is for you to express yourself and you alone. It helps you enjoy life and embrace the incredible person you are.

Related Blogs:

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative. Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.

The post Express yourself: How to get in touch with your creativity appeared first on Positive Peers.

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When it comes to HIV, there are a lot of misconceptions. People who are HIV positive sometimes face discrimination and confusion from their friends and family. The Kaiser Family Foundation released a study in 2012 that found one-third of all Americans believe one or more untrue things about HIV transmission.

There are a lot of false beliefs about how HIV is transmitted, and this creates a lot of stigma for people who have HIV. Homophobia goes hand-in-hand with the stigma around HIV. This is a huge problem because it can actually make people too scared or embarrassed to get tested or seek prevention services.

Sometimes that discrimination and confusion about HIV becomes hateful. So at what point does discrimination become a hate crime?

Well, first we should define what exactly a hate crime is. Basically, it’s any crime someone commits because of bias against a group of people. There are a lot of reasons someone will commit a hate crime against another person, such as their sexuality, HIV status, race, religion, or disability.

Something similar to a hate crime is a hate incident. Hate incidents aren’t necessarily crimes but still are motivated by bias towards a group of people. They can be any biased act, including what they say, how they express themselves, or what they do.

Hate crime penalty-enhancement laws have been passed in forty-one states and the District of Columbia.

Hate crimes and mental illness

A lot of times, it can be really hard to tell someone that you’re living with HIV. A lot of people face stigma or are shunned by their family, friends, peers, and even their wider community, which makes a recent diagnosis even more difficult. Many people also face discrimination when going to the doctor or going to school. If you’re a person of color, an LGBTQ person, disabled, or practice a different religion, the harassment and insults you could potentially face can be even worse.

Going through a hate crime often makes living with HIV a scary experience, especially if the hate crime was committed because you’re living with HIV. It makes you feel afraid, alone and scared to be who you are—something you shouldn’t have to worry about.

All violent crimes can be damaging to the person who experienced it. However, hate crime victims tend to go through more psychological distress than victims of other violent crimes. Having a mental illness and going through a hate crime often makes your mental health worse. It means you’re more likely to deal with:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Anger
  • Safety concerns

Take steps to get help

The most important thing to do is to get medical help if you need it. Your health and well-being are important. Try to write down everything you remember about what happened. It can help in the future. Make sure you know your legal rights and file a police report if you feel safe and comfortable enough to do so. Let the local LGBT community know what happened to you. Last, make sure you have support. Talk to your friends and family, and find an LGBTQ affirmative therapist to help you through it.

Self-care after emotional and psychological trauma

There are many ways to take care of yourself after living through a hate crime. Surrounding yourself with supportive people and opening up to them will make healing easier. Finding a trauma support group can really help too. Something called mindful isolation is also helpful. It means trying to avoid situations that will trigger you or create a fight-or-flight response. If you have too much excess energy, take walks, workout, or find another way to safely get rid of any anger you’re feeling.

Most importantly, take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating nutritious food and not too much or too little of it. Make sure you avoid toxic things like alcohol and cigarettes. Try to get enough sleep each night and go to bed at a reasonable hour. And don’t forget to take deep breaths when you need to!

Remember the good in the world

If someone commits a hate crime against you, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. They are the one filled with hate and intolerance. You did nothing to bring it upon yourself.

Whenever someone commits a hate crime, they’re attacking tolerance, acceptance, and all the goodness the world has to offer. We can’t and won’t let hateful people win.

Surround yourself with people who love you and make you feel safe. It’ll remind you of the good in the world and why we’re fighting against intolerance. Even though things get ugly sometimes, there is a lot of good in the world. You are a part that good!

Related Blogs:

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative. Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.

The post Dealing with hate while living with HIV appeared first on Positive Peers.

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You’ve heard it before: taking care of yourself goes a long way when it comes to living healthy with HIV. Being healthy involves more than getting enough sleep, remembering to take your meds, and exercising. You have to eat healthy too!

Having a healthy diet makes it easier to live a healthy life. Eating right will help you maintain a healthy weight for your height and body type. It can also help make your immune system stronger and make it easier for your body to absorb the medications you take each day for HIV. Pretty cool, huh?

Once you get the basics down, making healthy eating choices will become second nature to you. The important thing to remember is you need to eat a diet high in veggies, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. You also need good fats like olive oil, walnuts or almonds and lean proteins in your diet. When you’re picking proteins, choose ones that are lean and low-fat, such as fish or skinless baked or grilled chicken or turkey.

The next one most people already know, but it isn’t bad to have a reminder. Try to keep the soft drinks and other sweetened beverages such as ice tea, fruit punch or fruit juices, sweets, and food with added sugar to a minimum. This will help a lot and keep you feeling trim and sexy!

Now we’re going to get into some healthy recipes you can make at home!

Veggie Friendly

Your family wasn’t wrong when they told you that if you eat your veggies, you’ll grow up big and strong. After all, vegetables pack a lot of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

An excellent veggie recipe to try is Parmesan Garlic-Herb Zoodles by iowa girl eats. This low-carb and gluten-free recipe is really easy to make, and you only need a few ingredients.

Make it sweet with fruit

Fruits, like vegetables, are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help boost your immune system. Everyone should limit the salt and sugar they consume, but people living with HIV need to be especially careful.

Being HIV positive increases your risk of heart disease, and since overeating salt or sugar over time harms your heart, you won’t be doing yourself any favors if you overeat junk food.

The good news is, because most fruits are sweet, they can satisfy your sweet tooth and are way healthier for you! A good fruit recipe to try is Citrusy Fruit Kabobs from Taste of Home. The nice thing about this recipe is it’s super easy, and you can use many different fruits.

Whole grains are the way to go

Carbohydrates are what gives your body energy. Carbs are found in many different foods, including ones that aren’t good for you like potato chips and pizza. Try to stay away from those and stick with carbs that are loaded in fiber and rich in nutrients. Great choices are oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain pasta or bread, and whole grain unsweetened cereals. Whole grains are the way to go!

Eating Well’s article, How to Cook 7 Whole Grains and 10 Simple Ways to Jazz Them Up, talks about how to cook different whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and polenta. Later in the article, it even talks about simple ways you can make whole grains tastier.

What’s a legume?

There’s a good chance you’ve eaten legumes before and didn’t even know it! Legumes are dried fruits grown in a pod or shell. Some legumes you’re probably familiar with are peanuts, beans, peas, and alfalfa.

Legumes are great for everyone, but if you’re vegetarian or vegan, they’re excellent to have in your diet because of the protein, minerals, and fiber found in them. The protein in beans and other legumes help keep your muscles strong. Another thing to keep in mind is that, unlike other foods, legumes won’t inhibit fat loss or make insulin levels spike in people with diabetes.

A lot of legumes, including beans, are cheap to buy. They make a great food staple if you live on a budget. Make sure to check out The Simple Dollar’s Nine Easy Bean Recipes to Save Time and Money for ideas.

Protein packs a punch

We talked about protein in the section about legumes, but we’ll go into a little more here. People living with HIV sometimes lose muscle mass. That means consuming enough protein each day is essential to help stop muscle loss from happening. The palm of your hand is roughly one 3-4 ounce serving of protein. You need 2-3 servings of these each day. You can get these from nuts, beans, chicken, fish, eggs or meat.

Some good sources of healthy protein include lean meats like chicken and fish. Eggs are another protein to incorporate into your diet. Here are some fish, chicken, and egg recipes to try out:

 

Drinks to chillax

Sometimes after a long week, it’s nice to relax with friends and have a drink or two (but not more than 1 or 2 drinks per day is recommended). But alcohol is known for being high in calories — especially cocktails. Thankfully, there are ways to drink a tasty cocktail still and make it a little healthier.

Here are some drinks to check out from Self’s 14 Low-Calorie Alcoholic Drinks Registered Dietitians Love

  • Vodka seltzer with lemon or lime
  • Bloody Mary, extra spicy
  • A glass of pinot noir or champagne
  • Johnny Walker Black and Diet Coke
  • Low-calorie version of a cosmopolitan
  • Silver tequila on the rocks or with soda plus lime juice or an orange slice

Stay strong and eat well

It’s really important for everyone to maintain a healthy diet, and especially important if you’re living with HIV. Eating right will help keep your immune system as strong as possible and make it easier for your body to fight infections while having the perk of making you look and feel sexy!

Related Blogs:

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative. Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.

The post Healthy food and drink suggestions appeared first on Positive Peers.

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You’ve probably heard of depression before, but it can get a little confusing. Depression is a syndrome, which is a bunch of symptoms that make up a condition, and they can look different for different people. Some of the symptoms that make up depression are low self-esteem, feeling sad much of the time, and losing pleasure in things you used to love.

Another thing that’s common in people with depression is finding it hard to do everyday activities. Most people have these feelings at some point in their life, but depression is different. Depression is having many of these symptoms persistently, every day, for weeks or longer.

If you’re living with HIV, you probably have a lot going on in your life that may make you feel depressed or anxious. It may even seem like a lot of people you know also living with HIV are depressed too. Sadly, there’s a reason for that. People with HIV are more likely to have a mental health disorder than people without HIV. Roughly half of everyone with HIV goes through depression at some point, and if you suffer from substance abuse, the chances are even higher.

Always tell your doctor if you have a history of depression. It will help you in the long run.

We’re going to dive into the reasons why folks living with HIV are more likely to have depression. If you have this info, it can help you take care of your mental health.

An HIV diagnosis can change your life in an instant

Life can be really hard. This can be especially true right after you find out you’re living with HIV. It can feel like everything about yourself and your life changed in an instant, and it’s tough to deal with. It’s pretty common for someone to experience depression after getting diagnosed with HIV.

It is normal to have an adjustment period after you find out the life-changing information that you have a chronic illness. This can become problematic if feeling down, sad, scared, or anxious doesn’t lessen or go away in a few weeks. Sometimes it can be hard to know when to ask for help. Here are some depression symptoms to look out for that might mean it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider:

  • Having a depressed mood or feeling off for over a few weeks
  • Losing interest in things you love (this is called anhedonia and is the most common depression symptom after depressed mood)
  • Feeling a lot of guilt or shame
  • Having suicidal thoughts
  • Problems concentrating on things
  • Changes in your appetite in weight
  • Feeling agitated all the time
  • Changes in your sleep patterns
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of energy

When you see your doctor, make sure they carry out a mental health assessment. It can help to determine if you’ve been dealing with depression and didn’t even know it. There are many options to help people with depression, ranging from self-management activities to counseling to taking medication. You and your doctor and other healthcare staff can decide what options are right for you.

Outside stress can create inside stress and depression

Many different things in your life can feel stressful and sometimes contribute to depression. One issue is people having a rough time trying to get the services and care they need. Another issue is telling loved ones that you’re HIV-positive which can also be incredibly difficult to do.

There’s still a lot of misinformation about HIV, and it can cause some people to lose their support system. When you add in the stigma and the discrimination people living with HIV face, it’s not surprising depression is so common.

If HIV has progressed to AIDS, it can really affect your mood

Opportunistic infections (OIs) are infections that happen in people with severely compromised immune systems (when the t-cell count goes below 200). Advanced symptomatic HIV disease and OIs both can produce depression symptoms. The underlying problem—the OI or HIV—should be diagnosed and treated first, or at the same time, if possible.

HIV and HAND

You may have heard of HAND, which stands for HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder. Some people living with HIV can experience changes in their behavior and mood and end up having a decline in brain function and movement skills, like balance. This is all a part of HAND.

Having antiretroviral therapy helps make HAND a lot less severe for many people, but somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of people still have symptoms.

A lot of HIV and AIDS-related infections have just a few symptoms, but HAND is different. HAND symptoms have three different categories. They are:

  • Cognitive issues: Such as memory loss, having trouble concentrating, and loss of humor.
  • Motor issues: Some motor problems are dropping things a lot, having weakness in your legs, and losing control of your bladder and bowels.
  • Behavioral issues: These might include personality changes, paranoia, mood swings, and loss of your inhibitions.

Ask your loved ones to pay attention and see if you’re developing some of these symptoms. It’s important to talk to your doctor about HAND and how you can manage it.

Keep depression in check

We know we threw a lot of info at you all at once. It’s okay to take some time to process it. However, depression and HIV are very serious and something you need to know about to take care of yourself the best way possible.

Getting enough physical exercise, cutting back on alcohol and substances, and treating depression and anxiety, are just a few steps you can take to keep your brain healthy and keep depression in check.

Related Blogs:

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative. Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.

The post HIV, the brain, and depression appeared first on Positive Peers.

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If you aren’t too familiar with PrEP, it’s a medication an HIV negative person can take once a day to lower their risk of HIV infection by up to 99 percent. Pretty amazing, right?

The brand name of PrEP is Truvada, so if you ever hear someone talking about Truvada in the future, you’ll know they’re talking about PrEP. It’s one pill made up of two different types of meds: emtricitabine and tenofovir.

In 2012, Truvada was approved to help prevent HIV and has caught on quickly. Just last year, 136,000 Americans were estimated to take Truvada.

So let’s dive in and learn some really cool facts about Truvada!

Adults and adolescents can take Truvada

Back in 2012 when Truvada was first approved, only folks 18 and older were allowed to take it. Eventually, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was able to expand Truvada prescriptions for minors as long as they weighed at least 77 pounds.

The FDA expanded Truvada to minors after doing a study of 15 to 17-year-olds. The study lasted 48 weeks and, while on Truvada, the teens visited a clinic once a month for three months. Then they only visited once every three months for the rest of the study. The study showed that teens do better on PrEP with monthly visits.

Truvada has been around a LONG time!

We mentioned that Truvada has only been available to the public for prevention since 2012; but research has been going on much longer. It began in 1986 when a U.S. Patent was filed on tenofovir (which we mentioned in the intro). It was discovered in 1997 by Gilead (the company that makes Truvada) and UC San Francisco that tenofovir could intravenously treat HIV.

Truvada was approved for the Global Access Program and Advancing Access Program in 2004. Along with other antiretroviral agents, it was used to help treat people 12 and older who were living with HIV. By 2012, Truvada also was approved as PrEP for HIV negative people to take.

Truvada is covered by most insurance programs

At $1300 a month, Truvada is expensive out-of-pocket. The good news is that a lot of insurance plans will help you cover at least part of the cost. If you don’t have insurance or can’t afford the copay, Gilead actually has payment assistance programs that can help. While Medicaid varies by state, it’s another option to look into if you have Medicaid.

It’s worth noting that there isn’t a generic brand of Truvada available yet.

Truvada is awesome, but you still need to practice safe sex

Taking Truvada everyday will lower your risk of becoming infected with HIV, but it doesn’t work for other STIs and can’t prevent pregnancy. That means condoms and other safer sex practices are still your best defense against infections like Syphilis. There aren’t any FDA approved condoms for anal sex yet, but research has shown that regular condoms and internal condoms still work a majority of the time to prevent STIs.

Truvada is creating change in HIV prevention and sexual health

We know a lot more about safe sex and STIs than we used to. Condoms were the main way to make sex safer for a long time. New HIV infections have really dropped since the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, the biggest struggle is getting people to continue to have safe sex and to get younger people to adopt safe sex habits.

Since the mid to late 1990s, there have been about 800,000 people diagnosed with HIV. That comes out to more than 50,000 people a year. HIV is on the rise among gay and bisexual men and trans men and women, particularly young people of color.

Many different things can play into the increasing risk of HIV. HIV negative folks can think of PrEP and Truvada as a tool to help them take control of their lives. It’s basically like the birth control for HIV!

A safer and sexier future

Taking Truvada as PrEP will significantly reduce your chances of being infected with HIV. However, it won’t protect you against everything. It’s important to still be smart when it comes to sex. Using condoms correctly is certainly one way to protect yourself. Attending risk-reduction counseling will help you stay informed about other safer sex tools you can use like reducing your number of partners or engaging more in oral sex instead of anal with unknown partners. We strongly recommend getting regular HIV and STI tests and getting treated for any STIs you may have as having an STI will put you at a greater risk for HIV. Also, don’t forget to have open conversations with both your doctor and any sex partners. You may even want to get tested with your sex partner so you both know what’s up and can adjust your sexy time accordingly.

After all, knowing you and your partner are safe and protected will make the sex the most fulfilling sex you can have!

Related Blogs:

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative. Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.

The post 5 cool things you might not know about Truvada appeared first on Positive Peers.

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Living with HIV is very different than it used to be. Today, folks are living full, healthy lives. Thanks, modern medicine! All of this means if you and your partner dream of having a family, it doesn’t have to be a pipedream. It’s very possible for one or both partners living with HIV to have a family.

A serodiscordant couple is a couple where each person has a different HIV status. One person is living with HIV, and the other person isn’t. The CDC recently released some incredible information on a study they conducted on mixed status couples. In the study of 3,000 different sexually active couples, not one of them transmitted HIV to the partner who didn’t have it!

It’s totally possible to have both a healthy pregnancy and HIV negative baby if you or your partner live with HIV. Talking to your doctor about family planning is vital. Having information on both planned and unplanned pregnancies beforehand is really important. If you’re a woman living with HIV and plan to carry your child, then having a conversation with the doctor about the best HIV meds to take while pregnant is important. Talking to both an OB/GYN doctor and an HIV doctor is recommended.

It’s crucial that you find a supportive doctor if you or your partner are living with HIV and want to conceive. You deserve the same care and support from doctors as every other couple.

Ways to conceive

Before trying to conceive, make sure you both treat any STIs you have to lower the chance of passing HIV or other STIs to your partner.

Unprotected vaginal intercourse

With unprotected sex comes the chance of passing on HIV to your partner. The good news is that if the partner living with HIV has an undetectable viral load, they can’t pass it on! If the HIV negative partner is on PrEP, it will lower the chance of transmission, too. If you have unprotected sex during peak ovulation, you’ll be more likely to get pregnant. It will be safest for you and your partner to try to conceive if:

  •   The partner living with HIV is being treated for HIV and takes their meds properly.
  •   They’re undetectable for six months or more.
  •   You’ve both been tested and don’t have any STIs.
  •   The partner without HIV takes PrEP as prescribed by the doctor.
Home insemination

Home insemination is a pretty simple (and inexpensive) way to have a baby. The man has to ejaculate into a condom without spermicide or a clean cup while the woman’s vagina is fertile or ovulating. They can either have vaginal sex with the condom on or masturbate; either way will work. After that, take a baster or a syringe without a needle and insert the cum into the vagina. It’s most effective if the woman lies down for about 20 minutes afterward. Some people even say to keep your legs up (a “legs up the wall” pose for you yogis out there!).

Assisted reproduction

This method of getting pregnant typically happens at a fertility clinic using technology. In the past, many fertility clinics would refuse to help people living with HIV become parents, though now, they offer many different services.

  • Oligospermia cup insemination (OGI): This is probably the easiest procedure done at a fertility clinic. Using something that works a lot like a diaphragm, sperm gets put into a cup and fastened to the cervix. Rather than preventing pregnancy, though, the cup encourages sperm to go inside the uterus to fertilize an egg.
  • In utero fertilization (IUF): During IUF, sperm gets injected inside the uterus to boost fertilization.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF): Taking fertility drugs helps the ovaries produce more eggs than normal. The eggs then get extracted and introduced to sperm in a petri dish. The sperm can either be from the father or a sperm donor. After the eggs become fertilized, the embryo gets implanted into the uterus lining.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm insertion (ICSI): ICSI involves just one sperm being injected into an egg before the embryo is implanted into the uterus or fallopian tubes.
Egg donation

Egg donation is a combo of IVF and eggs donated from another person. The eggs first get checked for fertility problems and any diseases before the eggs are put in the womb that way you can still carry your baby if you want to. If you decide to use donated eggs to get pregnant, you still have to take your HIV meds to keep from passing it onto the baby.

Surrogacy

During surrogacy, you or your partner’s egg is fertilized, like during IVF, but the egg gets implanted into someone else’s womb instead. That person carries and delivers the baby for you, while you are still legally the parent. With an HIV-negative surrogate, you don’t have to worry about your baby born with HIV.

Adoption

HIV is considered a chronic medical condition, and people with chronic medical conditions sometimes have a harder time adopting children. It’s still possible, though! State laws and adoption agency policies are different everywhere. Just be sure to do your homework and talk to a lawyer for advice about adoption.

Conclusion

Whether you’re trying to conceive a baby or not, it’s really important for the HIV positive partner to be on antiretroviral treatment with an undetectable viral load.

Living with HIV doesn’t have to impact your dream of having a family! Modern medicine offers so many options to make your dreams come true.

Related Blogs:

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative. Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.

The post How to safely conceive a baby when you or your partner are living with HIV appeared first on Positive Peers.

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Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative. Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.

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