A decade ago people believed being diagnosed with HIV was a death sentence and while this is no longer so due to medical advancements in treatment, HIV/AIDS remains a global concern, killing 1.1 million people (amFAR) in 2015 worldwide.
HIV/AIDS attacks the body’s immune system, resulting in dysfunctional organ systems. In 2015, 17 million people were receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART) worldwide or 46 per cent of the individuals living with HIV. (WHO)
Yes, people are receiving treatment and maintaining their livelihood. Medical management through medication has found a way to suppress the HIV virus, and also totally cease transmission from an HIV positive female to her foetus. Although the battle is far from over, the future for a cure does look brighter compared to 20 years ago. HIV has no face, religion, identity, class, nor ethnicity; however, it has had an impact on the drug culture.
What is HIV in recovery? Many women who abuse drugs are known to use their bodies in order to obtain the controlling substance. These activities are usually associated with many sexual partners and this increases the risk of STIs such as HIV/AIDS. Many women are ashamed to even discuss their past sexual practices due to the fear of being judged. This is where extreme sadness, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts – signs of major depression – are seen and this contributes to the vicious cycle of drug abuse.
In recovery, basic concepts are analyzed to ensure self-esteem and self-confidence are restored. The ability to love your body’s image and to view yourself as worthy is very critical for the woman who is now going to return into the community and become a productive individual.
The body operates as a unit, for the brain needs the body and vice versa. HIV/AIDS has a detrimental impact upon the body as an entity, but with the assistance of modern medicine the virus is suppressed via medical compliance. For example, not only taking your medication as prescribed, but keeping your appointments, engaging in counselling sessions with your medical team, as well as ensuring the body’s nutritional needs are met are all part of compliance.
In recovery, acceptance is key for growth, and the willingness to learn and understand any condition along with its management, can result in not only productivity, but a more fulfilling journey. Looking and feeling healthy are not only positive steps but also bring families and friends closer and can facilitate healthy interpersonal relationships. Humans are social beings and there is a drive to socialise and be socially accepted. Therefore, a support system is not only beneficial for women, drug abusers, or HIV/AIDS victims, but every living person.
HIV in recovery means to abstain from the controlling substance(s), and simply do what other people are doing to stay healthy, possessing sound mental capabilities, providing yourself with a balanced diet, adequate exercise and rest, maintaining family, friends and work relationships, and taking general care of your health. A brighter future awaits anyone who is willing to grasp it with both hands and who is motivated to continue living in recovery with or without HIV/AIDS.
Dr Jerine Griffith, manager of Clinical Services, Clinical Supervisor And Clinical Psychologist