The Austin Chronicle

About AIDS

Holiday tips for HIVers

By Sandy Bartlett, December 17, 2004, Columns

The holiday season is upon us, and we are all likely to indulge in unfamiliar food and drink and perhaps even travel a bit. For those with HIV, some simple precautions can keep the season from becoming "The Nightmare Before Christmas!"

° Don't forget to take your meds! Erratic or disrupted schedules – typical both with partying and traveling – are among the biggest contributors to missed doses.

° If you travel by airline and have lots of prescriptions, carry three days of medications (or a filled meds-minder box) with you, and pack the rest in your checked luggage. That way, if you and your luggage get separated, you will have enough to get by until either your luggage is delivered or you can get an emergency prescription. Trying to take lots and lots of pills in your carry-on, however, could be dicey in the current atmosphere at airports.

° Don't overdo it! That especially applies to alcohol – it doesn't go well with most medications, and your liver is already under enough fire just trying to process the meds. Same for party drugs. Their use is also the biggest predictor that you will miss doses.

For immune-compromised people – HIV-positive folks with a T4/CD4 count under 200-300 – some special attention is needed for staying well.

° Watch what you eat – there are lots of nasty bugs out there. No raw oysters, steak tartar (raw beef), or raw fish (sushi/sashimi or ceviche). If you go to Mexico or farther south, don't eat raw fruits or vegetables unless they've been peeled. And bottled water only!

° If you're going away, it's always a good idea to know something about services where you're headed, in the event of an emergency. Your physician can refer you to a local doc, and ASA (458-AIDS) can provide info on service agencies. The more delicate your health, the more important this could be.

° Get your rest and take it easy. Remember: The holidays are supposed to be fun, not a stress-filled chore.

Take care of yourself – and make your holidays be cheerful and light!

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