The Austin Chronicle

Sexual Health Means Healthy Living

About AIDS

February 21, 1997, Columns

Many people believe that having sex with someone who is HIV-infected will automatically infect them, but that's not true. Exposure doesn't guarantee infection. Why do some people "catch" it and some don't?

One reason might be a strong vs. weak immune system. Ways to make your immune system strong include eating well, exercise, low stress, meditation, work you enjoy, a positive attitude, connections with people, a hobby, getting a massage, laughing a lot, and/or generally being happy.

Things that can weaken your immune system include chronic allergies, alcohol, a job that you hate, chronic isolation, excessive use of over-the-counter drugs, overwork, cigarette smoke (including passive), poor diet, lack of rest, and suppressing emotions.

A strong immune system can help us to feel good about ourselves and make us less likely to take the risks that expose us to HIV. Sexual health concerns far more than using or not using a condom. It's a state of mind as well as a state of the body.

Making change first takes the decision to do so. To increase the chance of success, start with one thing that is easy. Make change slowly and in small steps. Invite others to join you in your goals. Read other people's success stories for inspiration. Not only does this health plan lessen risk of HIV infection, it is the basis for a healthy, happy, and prosperous life. We cannot isolate our sexual health from the rest of our lives. Preventing HIV means living well on all levels.

-- Alex Fisher, M.Ed., Health Educator, City of Austin STD Clinic

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