Rae Lewis-Thornton Shares Tips for Beginning to Live With HIV (Video)
What is your message for people who have just tested positive?
Fundamentally, a newly diagnosed person has to decide between one thing or the other -- and that is, how long I want to live, or how soon I want to die. And if you choose life over death, then you must do absolutely everything that's required to live.I fundamentally believe that there must be a spiritual piece to what you do. Now, my spiritual piece is Jesus; the buck stops there. But your buck could stop at Buddha. I don't care what your buck is. But you need that higher being and source in your life. I believe that.
I believe you need therapy, whether it's group or whether it's individual. Because depression is very common among people with HIV. And when you're clinically depressed, you're not thinking clearly. And that will interfere with your ability to comply with your HIV medication and your regimen.
You need to get a doctor that listens to you, and that you understand what they're saying -- who is prepared to answer any questions, who is willing to allow you to comanage your health care. A woman told me one day, "My daughter just was diagnosed, and the doctor said that she was dying. You have any recommendations?"
I said, "Yeah. Get a new doctor." And so I truly recommend doctors who specialize in HIV. They are typically at the AIDS clinic. Sorry, but that's true. Whether you want to go to the AIDS clinic or not, that's where the best doctors are.
And it has to all be integrated in your life. And you have to comply. If you take one pill a day, you better take that one pill a day. Because your virus can set up a resistance to that pill if you don't.It really is about doing what you need to do. Disclose your HIV status. Now, I understand some of you all ain't ready to disclose to your mama. But find somebody that you can disclose to; you shouldn't live with this disease by yourself, in secret. You shouldn't live with this disease in shame.
And if you do those things, I think those are tools for living long with this disease.
I heard Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, who is one of the most brilliant AIDS doctors in the world. He said, "A person of 19 or 20 gets diagnosed with HIV; they can live another 50 years." It's true, but it's contingent upon you doing the things you need to do to live. You must take your medication. You must have a doctor you can communicate with. You must deal with your mental health. You must deal with your spiritual health. And you must find you a support system that will hold you up when you cannot hold yourself up. Because you cannot do it alone.
Even Moses had a support system. When they were fighting, God told Moses to hold the rod. And when Moses was holding up the rod, they were winning; and when his arm fell, they were losing. But there was Aaron on one side, and someone else on the other side, holding up Moses so he could hold up the rod.
Support systems are important -- whether you find them at your clinic; whether you find them in the neighborhood support system. Wherever you find them, you need them. You cannot go it alone.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Check out Rae Lewis-Thornton: A Diva Talks About Living With HIV/AIDS (Video Series).
Starting Your Journey With HIV
Finding out that one is HIV positive is an overwhelming and scary experience. Unless you know empowered HIV-positive people who can help you navigate the next steps to gain control of HIV, searching for information on the Internet and at support groups can be a daunting experience. And most HIV primary care clinics are so burdened that they have limited time to educate someone about how to stay healthy with HIV.
As funding for treatment education has been cut by pharmaceutical companies and the federal grant process, it is imperative that educated long-term survivors serve as mentors to people who are just starting their journey as HIV positive.
As a 27-year HIV survivor and research advocate, it amazes me how many people make uninformed choices due to lack of direction and support. That is why I decided to sit down to attempt to describe the most important things that every newly diagnosed person should know.
I hope this video saves newly diagnosed people time and worry! I may have forgotten to mention some additional important facts due to time limitations, so please feel free to leave comments in the space provided below.
Published on July 10, 2012
Nelson Vergel, from the non profit PowerUSA.org makes it easy to learn the most important steps to take to stay healthy after a HIV diagnosis. He outlines in this short video what he has learned during his 30 year battle with HIV. You can ask Nelson questions here:
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