a woman with HIV meditates while images of her stress out on either side of her

What Stress Can Cause

Did you know that a person who is living with HIV should always work towards a stress-free life? There are many reasons why our immune system is compromised and, therefore, staying away from any kind of negativity would be the best thing for all of us to do.

Stress, HIV, and our immune system

If we have constant stress in our lives, it can lower our immune system. Continued, deep-rooted stress or depression or even devastating events will prompt an elevated viral load that can lower our CD4 (T-cell) count.1

There is research that shows us how stress can and will decrease the immune system of a person living with HIV, making it harder to fight off any infections.2 You see, we do have a greater risk for mental health issues than people who are not living with HIV and our chances are doubled to be depressed than someone who doesn’t have HIV/AIDS.

Stress makes it hard to practice self-care

With all the challenges in life, trust me: I know it can be hard work to stay in a positive mood. Smiling can also be tough. But if you work on it every day, it does become easier to allow yourself to have a fabulous day. When we are depressed or stressed, it may lead to bad self-care. When someone is going through mental health issues, it causes you to give up on so many things that will help you take care of yourself. Things like taking your meds, going to your doctor's appointments, or wanting to spend time with loved ones to have a good time.

Support for those who are newly diagnosed with HIV

For someone who is newly diagnosed, it’s like everything you thought about life has been destroyed and happiness is no more, which can also trigger big amounts of stress. When going through this, don’t feel ashamed. Let your provider know what you need; it’s very important for your health.3

How stress impacts my immune system

I know people think I make living with HIV seem so easy. Well the HIV part doesn’t get to me so much anymore; it’s the other things. I don’t think about HIV when I wake up. I just continue to keep doing the things I have always done.

But there are things that cause my HIV to not work so well in my body and it’s when I allow the negative to seep into my world. Over the last year or two, I have noticed that when I have huge amounts of stress, I break out with a sore. It will go away after a week or sometimes it may last longer. But if I keep stressing, another one will appear and it is not a pretty sight at all. This is something I have never shared with anyone and I feel there is a need to do this right now.

So make sure self-care is number one in your life. And don’t let others disturb your life, because what they put on you doesn’t matter to them.

For more information on mental health and HIV, check out this resource: AIDSinfo - HIV and Mental Health.

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