HONORING OUR TWO-SPIRIT ELDERS LIVING WITH HIV DURING PRIDE MONTH
June 13th, 2020/New York City - Of the plethora of human emotions, shame is perhaps the most useless of all of them. Shame can lead to obsessive self-monitoring and self-condemnation. Leading to depression, anxiety, resentment, addiction, and anger issues. This can have a direct result on adherence to HIV treatment and the ability to thrive with HIV for people living with HIV (PLWH)
Walking in your truth as an LGBTQ2S individual is plagued with bigoted, oppressive, and toxic people seeking to shame you at every turn for your sexuality, sexual orientation, gender expression, and the like. Such violent behaviors are usually because of one’s inability to reconcile with issues within themselves, and/or systematically ingrained hatred. However, when you’re an LGBTQ2S individual living with HIV or AIDS, the shame, and irrational feelings of guilt, coupled with the apathetic and ignorant attitudes of society can be crippling.
The secret to overcoming these mentally and spiritually invasive pitfalls is right under your nose: LOVE YOURSELF! Easier said than done right?
Realizing that this moment in LGBTQ2S/HIV history doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and understanding how the kyriarchal (a system of conquering and ruling based on the white patriarchal oppression of others) structure of the past 527 years has impacted every fiber of our mental conditioning is an important first step. Because we learn about ourselves through relationships with others, it’s often the case that the views of ourselves and our subsequent self-esteem is skewed by the views and opinions of others, and how they treat us.
Who are you? Why should you love yourself? The answer is simple. You are divinity in the flesh. You are an eternal spirit, with a body and a mind. Though you have a mind, you are not the thoughts you think. You are the observer of the thoughts you think. You are light, you are love, you are the universe itself, manifesting through a human nervous system, and becoming self aware.
These things are true of your spirit whether or not you have HIV. For PLWH, HIV has been an experience that you have survived and learned to thrive in. Even through its pitfalls, trials, and tribulations. In fact, if you’re reading this, you have survived 100% of your worse days. Coupled with childhood, adolescent, and adult traumas that you’ve also survived, YOU are a warrior!
With there being a negative and a positive side to pride, the old saying is true - the wolf that you feed is the one that wins. A healthy sense of pride has scientifically proven benefits. Especially in marginalized communities. Working towards a life of self acceptance and self love that depends on absolutely NOTHING outside of yourself is key. Having it not because anyone chooses to give it to you, but because you know that you deserve it. We all do. Putting a value on your love before you expect anyone else to is also crucial. You’ll also be able to hold and set healthier boundaries with yourself and others, push back against negativity, and be your truest self.
Own all of you, including your HIV. Wear it as a metal of honor, use it as the door way to transformation, - and especially during pride month - let it strengthen you in your ability to forge ahead, and let it strengthen others that watch you put one foot in front of the other every day .
Happy Pride Month Relatives!
"Wear a mask, wash your hands, don't touch your face." "WEAR A MASK! WASH YOUR HANDS! DON'T TOUCH YOUR FACE!" Have you heard it in your sleep yet? While COVID-19 should be taken seriously, the morbid sensationalism of the American media has made it all but impossible to get a straight story that’s not clouded with fear-tactic reporting, or tolerate a news program long enough to make sense of it all! As one HIV specialist from Philadelphia Fight's Jonathan Lax Treatment center put it, "it's been painful watching the media report on this."
Indeed the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe. Leaving the world's population of people living with HIV (PLWH) in a precarious position. While a virus can be seen under a microscope, the nuances and experiences of living with HIV through the COVID-19 pandemic cannot. The triggering sense of impending doom, coupled with the sting of watching the United States Government rush to find a cure, while thousands had to kick, yell, scream, and die for medical resources and other support during the first wave of the HIV epidemic in the late 1980's and early 1990's can feel like a smack in the face. The current "We Are All In This Together" utopia can send a chill up one's spine when remembering the popular social attitude of the HIV ladened 80's when people felt that "HIV was killing the RIGHT people." For our Elders living with HIV through the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects are a pandora's box of mental, social, spiritual, and physical burdens. Community Based Organizations who acknowledge these microcosms while serving the PLWH community at this time are to be commended.
On April 17th, the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project (NATAP), gave a webinar presentation entitled "COVID-19 & HIV; Clinical Care Strategies & Updates." While many HIV practitioners feel that controlled HIV that is undetectable (a state where the HIV present in the body is suppressed by treatment, and can't be detected by lab tests. Therefore the virus cannot be transmitted by the undetectable person living with HIV) isn't a first tier risk factor, NATAP data shows that as of midnight on April 6th, 82.6% of NY State's 5,489 COVID-19 deaths involved at least one comorbidity such as hypertension (over 50%), and diabetes (almost 40%). NATAP did mention however, that those who are immunocompromised with a lower CD4 Count (the white blood cells that help fight off infection in the body), as well as those PLWH who aren't virally suppressed by HIV medication are at a great risk for COVID-19 and complications.
In short, there's never been a better time to make some lifestyle changes for the betterment of your health. A quick American Indian Community House youtube search will render Fit Native TV Live Workout Classes, of fun cardio exercise videos that you can do every day to stay in shape. Being home means more time to prepare meals for yourself with wholesome ingredients that will support your immune system. Limiting your exposure to others and the outdoors where lots of people are gathered is crucial at this point. So while we all sit and wait for a vaccine that is effective against COVID-19 - YES - wear a mask when in public and practice social distancing (standing 6ft. apart from others), wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Getting in the habit of not touching your face and washing your hands thoroughly are every day strategies we must do to stay healthy. If you're running a fever with a cough and shortness of breath, contact your local ER immediately or call 911.
Until then, it looks like the time you "never have" to finish that beading project has come *wink wink*. Checkout our AICH Facebook and Instagram for the many virtual community engagement programs we have coming up. Stay safe and well, and know that just as throughout time, all things are still connected, and even in the age of social distancing, WE are still connected.
The detrimental effects that alcohol can have on the liver, body, and brain
Many of us are all too familiar with the devastating effects of alcohol, whether through our own personal struggles, or watching it destroy those we love. Alcohol consumption literally effects the entire body and your complete health profile, but what about the effects alcohol can have on those living with HIV?
April is “National Alcohol Awareness month,” and according to a 2018 national Native American health survey conducted by americanaddictioncenters.org:
When HIV/AIDS is added to an individual’s health profile, the risks of alcohol consumption can include a higher viral load or lower overall CD4 count, and liver damage. While creating a plan with your provider for your holistic and overall health is important, here are 3 vital organs to take into consideration when consuming alcohol with HIV:
While normal alcohol consumption can lead to poor memory, and slowed reflexes, HIV-associated dementia already posses risks for memory loss, difficulty thinking, concentrating, and or speaking clearly. Physical exercise, lowering your blood sugar, and even listening to new music are all ways to help keep your brain sharp and healthy.
With HIV being an inflammation causing condition, and the harsh effects of HIV drugs on the liver, its easy to understand why such a liver damaging substance like alcohol should be avoided by people living with HIV. Coffee, plenty of water and exercise, and a diet rich in antioxidants are a great daily first line of defense for such an important blood-filtering organ.
Alcohol irritates the gut, and with a large amount of your body's immune system living there, gut health is important for everyone, especially people living with HIV. A fiber-rich diet, proper amounts of sleep (at least 8 hours), and the addition of probiotics are all gut-healthy choices you can incorporate into your lifestyle today!
If you or someone you know is experiencing alcohol challenges, call the national alcohol hotline at 1-800-662-4357.
A focus on holistic nutrition for those living with HIV during National Nutrition Month
March 20th, 2020/New York City - Indigenous people have known that food is medicine for centuries, and the old adage "you are what you eat" is truer than ever given the state of the American diet.
With 70% of the cells that make up your immune system living in your gut, People living with HIV exploring a healthy immune system-boosting diet is never a bad idea.
March 20th is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and while many will be talking about treatment adherence, a healthy diet should also be a part of a holistic treatment plan for thriving with HIV. Whole grains, high fiber, less sugar, lean meats, and a good portion of dark leafy green vegetables are ideal for our indigenous communities where health conditions such as diabetes are already prevalent.
Here are 3 main organs that every person living with HIV should be keeping "showroom new," and some healthy choices you can make in your diet to keep them that way:
Everything you put in your body is processed through your liver. HIV medicines can be harsh on the liver, and cause conditions such as a fatty liver. We have one word for you . . . COFFEE! Studies have shown that coffee lowers the risk of cirrhosis, and even of some liver cancers. Greens such as broccoli which is high in beneficial plant compounds, improve liver enzyme levels and decreased oxidative stress. Avoiding liver destroying substances such as alcohol are also imperative in maintaining a healthy liver, as well as other healthy organs.
The kidneys are also part of your body's filtration system and process waste. Many HIV drugs require close monitoring of the kidneys to help maintain healthy kidney function. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. They're are also a good source of vitamin B-6 and potassium which are all great for your kidney function. Also, at the risk of pointing out the obvious . . . WATER! WATER! WATER! Just drink it.
The heart is a celebrity organ that needs no introduction. With those living with HIV at an increased risk of heart disease for a variety of reasons, it's never too late to cut down on the amount of fat in your diet. While your at it, add garlic! Garlic has multiple health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Avocados, salmon, and dark chocolate also possess many health benefits for the heart.
Living and thriving with HIV is definitely aided by healthy lifestyle changes. We hope you'll consider some of the tasty suggestions above, and engage in a transparent dialogue with your doctor or local nutritionist about additional dietary changes that can benefit your health. Happy National Nutrition Month! Hope it's a delicious one for you!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details
TOPICS: COVID-19 & HIV - key topics discussed for HIV+ person:
-CROI 2020 Update
-Aging and HIV
PROTECT YOUR HEART
February is American Heart Month, the perfect time for Elders living with HIV to talk with their doctors about preventing heart disease
February 14th, 2020? New York City - American Indian Community House, New York City - Controlling your blood pressure, keeping your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control, and maintaining a healthy weight are all things that you can do to prevent heart disease. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Here’s the catch - you have to make a doctors appointment, and show up for it.
According to heart.org, people living with HIV can be at higher risk for heart attack, stroke and other types of cardiovascular disease as they get older. The chronic inflammation that HIV can cause in the body, coupled with things like the emotional and mental stress that People Living With HIV (PLWH) can experience, and the current state of the American diet can pose a serious threat for heart disease as a complication of HIV.
With general risks for cardiovascular disease increasing every year after 45 years of age in men, and from menopause through age 65 in women - after which risks increase greatly (poz.com), talking with your physician about genetic risk factors, as well as routine screenings and preventive care are always a good addition to a holistic treatment plan for PLWH. Taking advantage of resources like a nutritional specialist or dietitian at your local clinic or IHS is also a great start to making heart healthy lifestyle changes, as not even those who are HIV negative can out-exercise a bad diet.
Here are 3 things you can begin doing today to contribute to a heart healthy lifestyle;
Only 30 minutes of aerobic activity, five times a week can dramatically reduce your risk for heart disease. The best thing about cardio exercise is that there’s no one way to do it, and it should be something fun and enjoyable. Walking, jumping rope, and arm cycle machines for those who may be differently abled in their lower body are all good options for getting your heart rate up. Even sex is considered good cardio, as researcher say we burn 3.6 calories per minute duirng sex. That’s more calories burned than during a brisk walk! (Don’t say we didn’t provide fun options *wink*)
You may not want to hear it, but smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol immediately increase your risk for heart disease. Talk to your doctor about options for quitting. As they are many, and no one need suffer the unhealthy effects of quitting cold turkey in 2020. If you’re experiencing addiction in your life and would like to seek immediate help, call the National Drug and Alcohol helpline at 1-844-289-0879.
THE BIG SWOP
Swop one unhealthy snack for a healthier choice each day. Raw veggies with some hummus instead of of a candy bar, a high-fiber cereal instead of that donut, these are small lifestyle changes with a big impact. Keep these healthier options stocked in the house or at work so you’re more inclined to make that one healthier choice each day.
As the Wizard of Oz himself said, “hearts will never be practical until they can be made Unbreakable.” Until then, we hope you won’t consider yourself too busy to engage in the health and wellness of one of your bodies most important and beautiful organs.
American Indian Community House Leads The Way For Elders Living With HIV
AICH's Healthy Elders Network is creating opportunities for Elders living with HIV/AIDS to age "positively"
With HIV infections plummeting by 71% (advocate.com) due to the tremendous success of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), the once a day pill that can prevent HIV infection, funders are lining up to prioritize the funding of HIV prevention programs. According to kff.org billions of dollars were spent in the United States on HIV Prevention in 2019, and in the non-profit world - prevention is considered the "cure." But what about People Living With HIV (PLWH)? Moreover, what about the stigmatizing social, political, spiritual, and mental side effects of HIV that no pill treats? Where are the programs focusing on holistic wellness for those thriving, and surviving HIV? New York's American Indian Community House is creating such crucial and life-changing programming.
As pioneers in early HIV/AIDS programming during the disease's devastating first wave in 1980's New York City, and continuing the fight with culturally appropriate HIV/AIDS programs and services like the organization's "First Light Program," the American Indian Community House (AICH) is no stranger to being a front line warrior in a fight where many other Native American social service organizations still fear being associated.
AICH's Healthy Elders Network (HEN) is a program dedicated to the thriving and wellness of PLWH over 50. A demographic that trendy teen through late 20's "club kid" pop culture-focused PrEP ads seem to neglect. As aichHEN.org states, "by 2030, up to 70% of people with HIV will be over the age of 50."
"We're targeting two important pieces of our Indigenous value system: our Elders and holistic community wellness," says Deputy Director and HEN Program Director Sheldon Raymore (Cheyenne River Sioux).
HEN focuses on an empowering community-led model where improving care coordination, increasing resources for better well-being, and informing and educating providers are the centralized focuses. People ageing with HIV have unique needs that not all providers are equipped to meet. HEN works to make sure that people aging with HIV receive care tailored to their needs through continuing education and training programs for providers and clinicians. PLWH participants also participate in focus groups and community input activities where they're able to tell providers what their needs are. Not the other way around.
Being an HIV positive Elder as a Native American - in a community where health disparities, lack of access, and inter-generational trauma already present threats to Indigenous health and wellness - can be challenging and isolating. Having a network of caring and likeminded individuals devoted to empowering holistic wellness can in fact make all the difference in aging positively and with dignity.
This group determined that addressing the interrelated challenges within our healthcare system and the general HIV community, like stigma, loneliness and better coordination of care, is essential in reaching a viable solution to these challenges.
Recipient grantees include: