About AIDS

Preventing HIV Infection Is a Holistic Effort

Can having a strong immune system protect us from getting HIV? Can a positive attitude, exercise, laughing a lot, and generally being happy keep us from contracting this virus that has no cure? What about eating well? Expressing our feelings? Quitting smoking? Can these help keep us safe from having to take on the identity "HIV-positive"? The answers are no and yes.

For a long time, the prevention message was "just use a condom." By itself, it wasn't very effective. Condom use must be only a part of the message. Without dealing with other addicting behaviors such as alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and sex, our good intentions of self-preservation may dissolve.

Stopping HIV includes dealing with low self-esteem. Most of our internalized negative baggage is imposed upon us from birth, culturally accepted, and perpetuated. Until we take steps to love ourselves and create wonderful lives, HIV will continue to strike.

And how do we do it? Part of the answer is from the beginning: eating well, exercising, laughing a lot, etc. Holistically healthy living promotes immune strength, so in that sense, yes, a strong immune system is linked to avoiding HIV. We know exactly how this disease is transmitted. When we feel so good about ourselves that we would never consider taking these risks, safer choices, including condom use, are much more likely.

The trick is not to do it alone. Build a nurturing support system that keeps you connected. Something as simple as regular get-togethers can do a lot to preserve health. If you don't see how to start, find someone who's figured it out and adopt some of their behaviors.

Take it slow and don't get discouraged. Unless the underlying feelings behind our self-damaging behavior are addressed, we will slip back or pick up some other addiction to replace the one we've given up. Change takes more than will power. Sometimes it takes a lot of tears. And change doesn't happen overnight.

Visit the City of Austin STD Clinic for a confidential exam, including HIV test, for just $10. We're located at 15 Waller, at I-35 & Town Lake, open Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm. Call 469-3200 for an appointment.

-- Alex Fisher, Health Educator

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