Managing HIV During a New Pandemic

When COVID-19 came to the United States, I do not think anyone was prepared for what it has done to the United States - both with regards to the number of people infected and the number of deaths. The loss of jobs and how the federal response has left far too many without the resources needed to sustain themselves through these times.

Anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic

For those of us who are living with HIV, I believe we had a collective increase in anxiety because we are living with compromised immune systems.

For me, I have an anxiety mental health diagnosis. So, my anxiety was extremely high. I couldn't sleep, I lost my appetite, and I had a host of other issues I was dealing with. I was scared, plain and simple. I was thinking that I had overcome several things during my 31 years of living with HIV only to die from a new virus.

Support and tools to calm my anxiety

I shared my anxiety with a few friends, and they shared with me some tools I could use to settle in and calm down. I was given the opportunity to join a morning online talk conducted by holistic health practitioners, which were affirming and allowed me to get outside of myself and to get out of my head.

Those talks provided me with some strategies for how I could begin to structure my days. It helped me create a daily calendar of how I would go about my day. My routine included a morning meditation, breakfast, then a four-mile walk. Once I returned home, I would take a long bath with my candles lit.

Managing my HIV and mental health care

The appointment to see my provider in March was canceled by my provider. He wanted to wait until the clinic had in place new protocols that would reduce the chances of COVID-19 spreading within the building.

I am fortunate that we have an app in which I can communicate with all my providers. I was able to request refills of my prescriptions and give him an update on how the medication for the neuropathy I am dealing with in my feet are working.

One-stop-shop for my healthcare needs

I have since had an in-person appointment with my provider. I was greeted at the door by a nurse who asked a series of questions and then took my temperature before allowing me to proceed. There was social distancing throughout the building, and it put me at ease.

Limiting potential exposure to coronavirus

I received my care in the same building that I see my psychiatrist and the pharmacy that I get my medications. It is a one-stop-shop and I really like it that way. Since this new pandemic, I have been able to get my meds mailed out to me. For me it is a great help because, the way I see things, the fewer visits to the building, the less of a chance I have for contracting COVID-19.

Being proactive and advocating for my care

I have had three telehealth calls with my psychiatrist. We have been able to make some decisions about changing two of my meds. One for depression and the other for bipolar. I had been on the same mental health meds for many years and we decided that a change was necessary.

Being proactive and asking for what I need from my providers has gone a long way in helping me manage both HIV and mental health. I would suggest that we try to use all the tools which are able to us. Ask for the things you want and understand that we can live through this new pandemic.

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