By Guy Anthony
As someone who has been living with HIV since 2007 and was recently diagnosed as having bi-polar disorder, I understand what it’s like to operate from an emotional deficit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem within their lifespan, and I happen to be one of them. There has been research that has demonstrated the heightened prevalence of depressive and anxiety disorders among Black gay men. Imagine the added layers of stress one is subjected to after an HIV-positive diagnosis. As AIDS.gov’s HIV Basics page on HIV and mental health explains, mental health refers to your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Your mental health affects how you think, feel, and act, and it also helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. That’s important for all people, including people living with HIV. When you have positive mental health, you are often able to function better in life and especially in relationships. You’re also often better able to decipher what may be hindering you from experiencing the types of relationships you deserve. When I began to realize that the emotionally fulfilling relationships I desired were escaping me because I hadn’t unpacked my “stuff” yet, I subsequently reached out for help, which allowed me to make healthier choices for myself in regards to love and who I allowed in my life intimately.
It was especially important for me to acknowledge that I needed help and that it was OK to seek it. I understood that I wasn’t equipped with the necessary tools to discern between what was good for me and what was just good to me. That’s the problem with having an unhealthy perception of your reality; you make decisions that rival your best judgment. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been surprisingly empowering to realize that neither HIV nor mental illness defines me. I define them both by reclaiming my narrative and putting a face to the disease and illness that has plagued my community for decades. Today, I want you to ask yourself the hard questions: Do I honestly feel good about myself and do I feel good about the decisions I’ve made? If you answer no to either of these, I challenge you to do something about it!
Visit the HIV/AIDS Basics page for more information on Mental Health and HIV.
From the Huffington Post…
HIV stigma needs to be a thing of the past, and there’s an awesome way you can help change public perception.
For the fifth year in a row, Positively Aware and TPAN are sponsoring “A Day with HIV,” an HIV photo campaign. The initiative invites people from all around the world to take and submit a photo from their life at some point during the day on Sept. 9 in order to raise awareness about what it means to live in a world with HIV.
“A Day With HIV” provides a unique opportunity for individuals to make an impact through visual storytelling and contributing to breaking down stigma surrounding HIV.
This year, in an effort to extend its “A Day With HIV” virtual photo sharing initiative, Positively Aware and TPAN are working in partnership with Let’s Stop HIV Together, an HIV awareness and anti-stigma effort of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“With parallel goals aimed at raising general HIV awareness and addressing the often-associated stigma, it was really a natural fit for these two campaigns to join forces,” Jeff Berry, Editor of Positively Aware, said in a statement. “By coming together, we are building an even larger community of support and ensuring that we reach each and every corner of society, particularly those people who may not have otherwise experienced the power of the virtual campaign.”
For more information on where to submit your pictures head here. Participants are encouraged to take their photo on Sept. 9 and submit it to Positively Aware by Sept. 12.
Check out a slideshow of images from last year’s “A Day With HIV” on the Huffington Post.
From the Washington Blade…
The Hornet Gay Social Network has launched a feature that will help users locate HIV testing services and learn more about PrEP and other topics, the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reports. The app’s creators have partnered with aids.gov to power the feature, which was used about 30,000 times its first day, the article said. Hornet is a gay-owned location-based dating and social network.
The gay community has made progress in reducing HIV infection rates, but new trends among young people show that HIV rates are increasing once again, 132.5 percent from 2001-2011—a much higher increase than older gay men and a significant contrast with the drop among the general population. Studies show that public concern about HIV has decreased, yet the number of people living with HIV in the U.S. exceeds 1.1 million and continues to increase, the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News article said.
In a news release, Hornet said that in order to end the epidemic, help is needed to promote HIV services in ways that are far-reaching and lasting. Traditional advertising does not reach all users in need of health services. Sophisticated geo-specific resources are powerful. Within the Hornet app, social network members can use the tool to find the 10 closest HIV locations. The widget is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is available for free, the article said.
From GPB News…
In order to slow the spread of HIV, certain people who do not have the virus but are at risk should take medicine to prevent becoming infected. That’s the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, just recently, the World Health Organization. The preventive treatment is known as PrEP, for pre-exposure prophylaxis.
Eric McCulley made the decision to start PrEP. He’s 40, gay and HIV-negative. Outside an Atlanta coffee shop, he pulls out a plastic baggy with a few blue pills. “They’re a decent size, actually,” he says. “Some people might call them a horse pill.” The pill is called Truvada, a combination of two drugs used to treat HIV. Despite McCulley’s negative HIV status, he’s taken the pill daily for the past few months.
After hearing about the treatment and doing extensive research on his own, McCulley made an appointment with his primary care doctor earlier this year. “He was very supportive about it. He encouraged me to do it,” he says. “He gave me a lot of stuff to read, gave me a lot of stuff to think about, and told me I was a good candidate for it. So off we went.”
So far, McCulley says, the only change the drug has made in his life is in his attitude. “I have what I was looking for. I have peace of mind. I feel like I’ve taken responsibility for my health,” he says.
But some PrEP users worry that not everybody in the medical community is up to speed. Although Truvada has been on the market for a decade, only recently have prescribing guidelines been available. Dylan West is a 25-year-old Atlanta resident and works in international aid. He is also gay and recently found out firsthand that not every doctor is as familiar with PrEP as McCulley’s is.
From Oncology Nurse Advisor…
Life expectancy for HIV-infected people is now similar to uninfected people, but survival for infected patients who develop cancer is not. Many studies have attempted to understand why HIV-infected cancer patients have worse outcomes; however, this new study, the largest of its size and scope, examined differences in cancer treatment as one potential explanation. It was conducted by researchers in Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2014; doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.54.8644).
For early stage cancers that have the highest chance of cure with appropriate treatment, those with HIV were twice to four times as likely to not receive appropriate cancer treatment, the researchers found. HIV-infected people with lymphoma, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer were almost twice as likely to be untreated for cancer, even after considering differences in age, gender, race, and stage.
From Edge on the Net…
A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis shows that while most primary care physicians offer regular, routine HIV testing to gay and bisexual men, only 1 in 5 provides routine screening for all patients.
“Testing remains an important HIV prevention tool. It is the first step toward ensuring that those living with HIV get the treatment and care they need to protect their health and reduce their likelihood of transmission. Yet the majority of Americans have never been tested, and nearly 1 in 6 people who are HIV-infected do not know it,” writes the CDC in their analysis.
The CDC recommends that everyone be tested at least once — and for gay men, at least once a year — to ensure those living with HIV get the care and treatment they need to protect their health and reduce the likelihood of transmission.