Humanity’s search to end the suffering of millions of people with HIV is possibly one of the most inspiring stories of this century. There was a time when being diagnosed with HIV meant the end of your life as you knew it, being sick all the time, repeated hospital admissions and an early death.
What we see now is nothing short of amazing. While we are still searching for a cure, antiretroviral (ARV) medication is able to keep the disease at bay and, with proper self care, people with HIV are now able to live full and healthy lives, living as long as people without HIV . The implications of this are enormous for South Africa, which has the largest number of people living with HIV in the world, with just under 1 in 5 people infected.
The first step to staying healthy is getting tested at your local pharmacy or doctor as the World Health Organization now recommends that ARV treatment is started in all adults living with HIV at any CD4 cell count. . It is also important to take care of your physical and mental health. Eat a balanced diet without too much fat, salt and sugar.
Make sure you get enough protein (meat, fish and eggs are good sources) and plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits to meet your body’s needs for vitamins and minerals. For energy or to regain weight, eat starchy foods such as brown rice, wholemeal pasta, potatoes and bread. Get enough sleep and exercise to keep both body and mind healthy .
Keeping a positive outlook is important as depression can be harmful to your treatment programme, so find the support you need to talk through your feelings or see a professional if necessary . Prevent spread of the disease to your sexual partners by using condoms and taking your medication every day .
Medications are now easily accessible and affordable but this wasn’t always the case. In 2001, ARVs cost around R170 00 per patient. This prompted scientist and chairman of Cipla, Dr. Yusuf Hamied, to promise to make AIDS medicines available for just R14 ($1) a day.
Today, Cipla manufactures generic ARVs in KwaZulu- Natal, providing medication to patients at reduced cost . With greater affordability, South Africa now has the largest antiretroviral programme in the world . For many people, being diagnosed with HIV has reminded them to focus on what really matters in life, so stay positive and live to your fullest potential. After all, we all have only one life to live.
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