Preventing Illness during Cold & Flu Season

For people living with HIV, cold and flu season isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s a very risky time of year because opportunistic infections seem to lurk everywhere. There are ways to stay healthy during winter that do not involve isolating yourself. You just have to diligently practice good health habits.

Exercise Good Hygiene to Keep Germs at Bay

The #1 way to prevent catching something during cold and flu season is to reduce microbial pathogens on your person…that means washing your hands thoroughly and frequently.

Proper hand washing entails: Continue reading

Myths & Facts about HIV Causes and Prevention

Although HIV/Stage 3 (AIDS) has been considered a public health concern for more than 30 years and there have been numerous public awareness campaigns about the disease, plenty of myths remain. People living with HIV still face stigmatization daily, which by itself may be enough to discourage someone from seeking testing and treatment…and delayed treatment diminishes chances of a long and healthy life. This delay in testing and treatment also increases the risk of infecting one’s intimate partners and medical providers. For everyone’s sake, we need to set the record straight. So, let’s start myth-busting…

What People May Believe about HIV Causes

By now it seems common knowledge that HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids. However, there’s a lot of misinformation about which fluids, exactly, have the potential to spread disease. Common myths about virus transmission include: Continue reading

Why Is It Important to Get Tested?

UNM Truman Health Services offers fast and confidential HIV testing, the importance of which cannot be understated. HIV testing is the first step to getting the care or counseling you need to take care of your physical, emotional and sexual health.

Testing Gives You Peace of Mind

Some people who suspect they may have contracted HIV may put off knowing, as if not knowing will prevent them from experiencing any symptoms. But in regards to HIV, ignorance is not bliss. Obviously, not knowing your HIV status does not prevent the virus from replicating and the disease from progressing. Worse yet, the not-knowing increases emotional and physiological stress.

Testing Helps Find the Right Treatment

HIV is a virus, much like the common cold or flu. If you suspect you have a cold or flu, you can treat yourself accordingly without risk that cold/flu remedies will hurt you if you do not, in fact, have one of those viruses. HIV treatment doesn’t work like that.

HIV treatments, i.e., ART, cannot be safely administered to someone who is not living with HIV. Because these treatments are medically regulated—you need a prescription and consistent monitoring for them—there must be a definitive HIV diagnosis before you have access to HIV drugs. And having access is imperative. Establishing an ART regimen as early as possible in the disease process has been shown to increase your chances for positive health outcomes, including a normal life expectancy.

If You Are Afraid of Testing

If you are putting off getting tested for HIV because you are afraid of what the results may say, you’re not alone. But rather than put your health at risk, visit UNM Truman Health Services. We respect your confidentiality regardless of your age. We also offer counseling and education to help you cope with your diagnosis and increase your adherence to safe sex practices.

For rapid HIV testing, you may either contact us to schedule an appointment or walk into our clinic during walk-in testing hours, Tuesdays from 8 am to noon and Thursdays from 12:30 pm to 5:00 pm.

What Holiday Foods You Can Enjoy on ART

With Thanksgiving around the corner and Christmas and New Year’s following closely on its heels, you know that a near-constant barrage of rich, decadent holiday foods is going to be present at home, work and on seasonal restaurant menus. For people on antiretroviral therapy (ART), you may be wondering, “Can I eat this? Should I eat this?”

The good news: as long as you enjoy foods in moderation and at appropriate times, there are actually few dietary restrictions for patients on ART.

Enjoying Holiday Foods Is More about Timing

For most ART medications, the issue with eating is about when you eat in relation to when you take your medicine rather than what you eat. Some medications require gastric acid for proper absorption, so they should be taken with meals. Other medications’ effectiveness may be impaired by stomach acids, so they should be taken on an empty stomach.

As long as you take meds before, after or with meals as indicated, you are generally free to eat what you like.

One notable exception is Efavirenz (brand name Sustiva). Risks for adverse effects increase with fat consumption because fat affects absorption. People living with HIV who are on this ART medication should adhere to a low-fat diet, even during the holidays.

Foods to Avoid or Consume with Caution

Many holiday festivities rely on alcohol to increase everyone’s cheer. While a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner or a champagne toast to ring in the New Year do not pose a threat, excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided no matter what ART medications you take. Alcohol may increase the risk of adverse side effects, but more importantly, it can damage the liver, which is responsible for processing ART medications. Without a healthy liver, your medication is rendered nearly ineffective.

Beyond alcohol, food and supplement restrictions are medication-specific. Here’s a quick guide:

If you take… Avoid…
Integrase inhibitors Calcium supplementation with dose
Saquinavir (brand: Invirase) Garlic capsules; grapefruit juice with dose
Non-nucleoside transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI), protease inhibitor (PI) St. John’s Wort
 

 
Medication and dosing information dispensed with your prescriptions may have more detailed information about food, drug and supplement interactions. If you have questions about safe holiday consumption on ART, please ask your doctor or contact UNM Truman Health Services.

Alternative Therapy Spotlight: Therapeutic Massage

The most effective treatment in suppressing viral load is antiretroviral therapy (ART). However, some ART drugs can cause uncomfortable side effects, and living with HIV can take its toll on an individual’s social, emotional and mental well-being. Complementary therapies can effectively address the side effects or consequences of living with HIV and active HIV treatment. UNM Truman Health Services offers a number of complementary therapies, including therapeutic massage.

Understanding Therapeutic Massage

Therapeutic massage is the systematic manipulation of soft tissues (skin, muscles and connective tissues) using various levels of pressure, strokes and other techniques. Therapeutic massage may be applied to the entire body or focus on specific areas where tension is causing pain and/or contributing to compensatory movements that are pulling (or may pull) the body out of natural alignment.

The practice of therapeutic massage is regulated by the state health board, and to get the Continue reading

An Alternative to “Kick and Kill” as a Potential HIV Cure

In the 30+ years since the HIV/AIDS virus was identified, incredible scientific advances have led to the development of drugs that effectively prevent viral progression, allowing people living with HIV to enjoy longer, healthier lives. With viral suppression nearly mastered, the focus in HIV/AIDS research turns to complete eradication of the virus from an infected body. While some research groups work to develop a vaccine, others seek to destroy Continue reading

Losing Sleep on Dolutegravir? You’re Not the Only One

Recent studies are showing that dolutegravir, an antiretroviral marketed under the name Tivicay or Triumeq (when combined with abacavir/lamivudine), may cause neuropsychiatric side effects at higher rates than clinical trials indicated. These symptoms are causing many people to cease taking Tivicay and search for more side-effect-neutral treatment medications.

Dolutegravir Facts

Dolutegravir (DTG) is an integrase strand transfer inhibitor. It works by blocking the HIV virus from inserting or integrating DNA into the DNA of the host cell. Without integration, the virus cannot replicate, helping the body to maintain a low viral load.

DTG’s approval was fast-tracked by the US Food and Drug Administration, arriving on the market by August 2013. Soon after, DTG was approved by Health Canada (November 2013) and the Continue reading

Fun Alternatives to Giving Out Halloween Candy

Who doesn’t want to have the coolest house on the block this Halloween? So to make yours memorable try these Halloween candy alternatives. Not only will they be a hit with the neighborhood kids, their parents will love you too!

Sweet Treats that Aren’t Candy

There are a number of non-candy treat alternatives to tempt the little trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood:

  • Chocolate covered pretzels
  • Yogurt covered raisins
  • Cookies
  • Mini muffins
  • Fruit snacks

Many of these sweet treats are available in snack-size packages that can be purchased at your local bulk wholesaler. Why not mix up a few of these packages and put them together in a holiday themed bag?

Delicious and Nutritious Treats

Sweet doesn’t have to mean loads of extra sugar. Some sweet treats can also Continue reading

LGBTQ+ October Events

October is full of events for the LGBTQ+ community in the greater Albuquerque area, and much of the fun extends into the winter holiday season.

This month, Albuquerque will host:

 

Noche Extravaganza (National Latino AIDS Awareness Day)
October 6
National Hispanic Cultural Center

Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
October 13-22
Guild Theater
3405 Central Avenue
Albuquerque, NM Continue reading

Complementary Treatments to Antiretrovial Therapy

If you are newly diagnosed with HIV, you may be wondering about your treatment options. You may already know that antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the most effective treatment protocol in terms of suppressing viral load. However, there are complementary treatment options that may relieve unpleasant side effects of ART (if any) and enhance your physical, mental and emotional health.

Understanding ART

Antiretroviral therapy typically involves a combination of two or three separate antiretroviral medications. Each medication included in a person’s ART regimen inhibits viral replication at a different stage to effectively reduce the viral load.

Statistics about ART

To date, antiretroviral therapy is the most effective means by which to suppress viral load and Continue reading