Building support system for people living with HIV

Support systems are relied on when things aren’t going well or when one is not feeling too great. We all need support and encouragement every now and then, for it is such a tough road to walk alone.

It is a fact that getting support from family, friends, partners and colleagues can make a huge difference for persons living with HIV (PLWHIV). The society needs to understand that we can be the support system they need. So when someone tells them of their status they are not asking for pity, rather support. Research has shown that Non communicable diseases are becoming a growing problem in people with HIV as they live longer on successful antiretroviral treatment. It is also documented that some antiretroviral drugs may increase the risk of heart diseases and diabetes while HIV itself increases the risk of some cancers.

Getting help from others has been proven to be the first step towards getting through a crisis. It is liberating, fulfilling and helps us all heal or conquer what beats us down faster.  Question is how do people living with HIV go about getting this help when all they get in return is stigma from others and resentment from themselves?

At top of the cherry is the name calling and verbal abuse by healthcare professionals right inside working spaces typical in local parlance, hospital environment that ought to be safe spaces is crawling with judgmental eyes and mouths, how does one blame People living with HIV for not asking for help.

Support comes in many forms and places, example is motivating a friend or a family who is living with HIV by way of encouraging them to stay on treatment, practice safe sex and positively reminding them that they can still live a healthy life and achieve their dreams.  It is on record that 1.1 million persons living with HIV are currently on treatment in Nigeria, now families of these persons could be their major support system because there’s no substitute for family and good friends to support and encourage someone, having someone listen to your concerns helps everyone feel supported and understood, which in turn encourages one to look at things (life inclusive) differently.

Psychotherapists believe that helping someone with HIV can be stressful but very rewarding too, because aside the emotional support, one might be helping them figure out how to work through the medical system.    Social and mental support is such an important factor in developing and maintaining healthy lifestyle and mental wellbeing behaviours.

It is important that we consciously lend our support to love ones as it is a scary thing not being able to confide in anyone of your deepest fears or worries for the fear of been judged or discriminated against. If we remember every day that we could lose someone at any moment, we would love them more fiercely and without fear- not because there is nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

Ekene Odigwe

Enugu

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