Sexually Transmitted Infections
Taking Care of Ourselves
Taking care of ourselves physically and emotionally when we have HIVor AIDS is often difficult. Women from the Women of Color AIDS Council in Boston offer the following advice:
- For your primary health care, find a health care provider with a background in infectious diseases or obstetrics and gynecology, who knows and understands HIV disease. In this era of managed care, access to specialists may be limited.
- Remember that your provider works for you, and you must be comfortable with him or her. Don’t be afraid to find a different provider, because deciding what approach to take in your treatment should be a team effort between you and your providers.
- Learn all you can about HIV so that you can advocate for yourself. READ. Stay up to date with the newest information and treatments (see Resources).
- Learn to listen to and know your body, so that you will be aware of changes.
- Create a network among women in your community. Take advantage of existing resources and services. The support of others often can give us the strength to deal with the stresses and challenges we face in life.
- Be open to counseling, therapy, and self-reflection. HIV can cause depression and feelings of hopelessness. It is very important to seek help and not isolate yourself.
- Never give up. If there is no answer at one number or if the resources are not available, call the next number.
- If you are thinking about getting pregnant, make sure you have preconceptual care. There are treatments that can increase the possibility of your child being born without HIV.
- If you are using drugs or alcohol and want to quit, enroll in drug treatment or seek out Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous resources.
- Take life one day at a time.
- Practice safer sex: “You can only be responsible for your own safety. Proceed with caution at all times.”
- Use protection even if your partner isn't HIV-positive, because avoiding STIs can keep you healthy longer.
Here are some questions that might be helpful to ask when you choose a health care provider for HIV care:
- Do you have any experience with complementary practices (e.g., acupuncture)?
- What is your attitude toward people who are in recovery or who are actively using drugs?
- Are you up-to-date on the latest HIV care?
- Are you familiar with how the different drugs affect women?
- How would you react if I chose to become pregnant?
- What other HIV care services are part of your practice?
- Are you planning to stay with this practice for a long time?
- Are you willing to do regular viral load testing even if I don't have the money or insurance to cover it? Will you advocate for me in getting medications?
- Is childcare available for me during health care appointments if I need it?
- What are the attitudes and practices of the nursing and support staff at the hospitals where you might send me for inpatient care?
Last revised: March 2005
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