Finding ways to support someone living with HIV in a positive way can be tough, but with the right tips, you can.
Sometimes, all you need to do is listen and learn to support someone living with HIV.
You may feel as though you’re not strong enough to support someone with HIV in a way that improves or benefits their life. However, one of the most profound things you can do for someone with HIV is to learn as much about their condition as you can, including the medications used to treat it. Having HIV, or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your loved one’s life. Although researchers and doctors don’t have a cure for the disease right now, the HIV drugs your loved one takes can help improve and extend their quality of life. Researchers continue to develop and plan new and different types of HIV medicine to help patients, including immunotherapy, nanotechnology and treatments that suppress the virus. If possible, and if you feel comfortable doing so, ask your friend or family member to educate you about their treatment for HIV. If your friend or loved one takes HIV drugs that successfully treat their disease, they may want to share this information with you. Additionally, take a moment to research HIV medication. You can do this by visiting your local library or reading through texts online. Your primary care doctor, local health department and outreach center can all be great resources for you, especially if they treat people with the virus. You can share what you learn from your research about treatment for HIV with your loved one.
Learning to listen to someone living with HIV can help them come to terms with their health status more than you know. This is particularly important if your loved one fears their condition or what other people might think about them. In the past, people often felt ashamed about having HIV and what it meant to have the disease or undergo HIV treatment. The stigmas and phobias they faced from other people and themselves often created pain, anguish, and even fear. For example, some people might assume that your loved one lived a careless lifestyle in the past and that is why they have HIV. Other individuals might avoid your friend or family member once they find out about their HIV-positive status or that they take HIV medicine. Even if your loved one seems unaffected by the negativity in their life, it doesn’t mean that they are perfectly fine. They may actually welcome someone who is willing to listen to them instead of judging them, which is part of choosing to support someone living with HIV.
Encouraging your loved one to eat a healthy diet and exercise may not be easy to do, but you can give it your best shot when you seek to support someone living with HIV. Even if their HIV medications work well, your friend or loved one still needs to eat foods that strengthen their immune system. A weakened immune system not only causes a setback with your loved one’s HIV, but it also makes them vulnerable to other infections and illnesses. You can help your loved one stay on track to good health by preparing meals for them when they can’t cook themselves. The meals should include plenty of vegetables, such as carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as apples, grapes and other fruit. Combine the foods into simple but flavorful salads or soups that your loved one can digest easily. You might even consider creating a recipe book online or in a book to help you keep track of what to prepare for your loved one’s meals each week. If your loved one doesn’t feel like eating, save the meals for later. However, you should gently remind your loved one that if they don’t eat properly, they won’t stay healthy enough to fight their disease. Getting your loved one to exercise may take a little more effort on your part, especially if they just don’t feel like it. HIV and HIV medications can make individuals with the disease feel tired at times. Expending the energy to run, play sports, or even hit the gym might not be a simple task. To overcome this problem, encourage your friend or family member to take short walks in the yard or in a place of interest, such as by a lake or small park. You can also sit down with your loved one and develop an exercise schedule that works best for them. For example, you might schedule walks on Sundays and Wednesdays and trips to the local gym on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Skipping some days keeps your loved one from becoming stressed or anxious. It’s important to understand that even with the best efforts and encouragements, your loved one may simply need time to adjust to their HIV status and to the change in their life. If they refuse to exercise or eat the meals you prepare, back off and give your loved one time and space. You can always seek outside support for your friend or family member if necessary.
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