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Op-Ed

Doing everything right when living with HIV

Fr. Richard Mickley, CDOS, Ph.D. says that “if we know what to do and do it, HIV is not to be feared.” To live a full life, one just has to “do everything right”. And it is time to talk about what “everything” is and “how do you get it all right?”.

If we know what to do and do it, HIV is not to be feared. It can be made powerless in an all-around program of doing everything right.

Greg Louganis, Magic Johnson and thousands of people around the world have conquered the virus by “doing everything right.” Both Greg and Magic are past 52 and have lived with the virus for more than 20 years. Rev. Steve Pieters has lived a full life, doing everything right, with both HIV and AIDS for more than 30 years.

It’s time to talk about what “everything” is and “how do you get it all right?”

In general, the answer is a healthy and healthful all-around life and lifestyle.

“Indeed, today, HIV-AIDS has become a chronic disease that if treated properly, can be held at bay in a newly infected young adult for decades, if the patient adheres to a rigid daily regimen,” Dr. Tyrone M Reyes, M.D. (in The Philippine Star). “The beginning of the end of AIDS?”

This essay outlines how to adhere to a rigid daily regimen; in other words, do everything right.

What makes a whole person whole?

If you are living as a fully human person the way you are designed, you are functioning (simultaneously) as an

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Intellectual person
Physical person,
Spiritual person,
Emotional person.

Note that the first letter of each component makes the “word” IPSE. It just happens to be the Latin word for self, or we can say person. So when we say the IPSE components, we refer to the four components of a whole human person.

So picture yourself, a person, as a circle with four equal segments.

Now the person who is living with the virus may have a tendency to think of “it” as a “physical problem, and “it” can be handled with medications.” It needs to be handled wholistically, and we will discuss what that involves. Obviously, “it’s” not an “it.” It’s YOU.

The secret is: The virus is powerless if we do everything right and keep all elements of our life in balance and harmony.

Let’s examine each component – one by one – but we must never forget that none of the components is designed to function without all the others – without being in harmony with the others.

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE IPSE COMPONENTS

So let’s look more closely at each IPSE component to learn basically what each component can contribute to our overall wellness and our triumph over the power of HIV.

Intellectual (I)

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There is, of course, a link between what we think and what we are (which can be thought of as our wellbeing as a whole).

Therefore as part of your wellness it is good to feed your intellectual self with positive up-building thoughts.

Thoughts spring from what we put into our mind. We know the horror stories of violence spawned from watching violence-dominated movies, games, etc.

On the other hand, we are particularly built up, motivated, inspired by good reading, not only to keep our mind active, but to nourish our thoughts positively. Reading can include the holy books that are valuable to us. This nourishment can also be found in good television, etc.  The basis of good intellectual health and well-being is good “input.”

Physical (P)

All of us benefit from good nutrition and proper care of our bodies (including hygiene and dental care). Those of us with HIV have an additional challenge because our immune system has been weakened by the virus. Our aim is to protect and improve the immune system by “doing everything right.”

We all depend on our immune system for protection. It has been said that the “bugs” which cause colds and flu are swirling around us all the time. When we come down with one of them, it is because we have weakened our immune defence system by insufficient sleep or exercise, or other damaging intake or behavior.

Thus in our selection of nutrition and supplements we will pay special attention to giving our body the best we can to build up our attacked immune system.

It could be as simple as this statement on Internet makes it sound, “Start with getting eight hours of quality sleep at night. Eat a healthy breakfast high in fiber. Eat healthy snacks during the day. Drink lots of ice water. Cut back on soda, tea, coffee and booze… You need to eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, and above all get some sleep. If you are too busy working or socializing to do these things, you will continue to stay sick. Stress is a huge factor in compromising immunity. Getting on a cardio machine, jogging, even brisk walking for an hour will relieve the stress.” Of course, you could add yoga or any exercise of your choice.

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If all the elements of your IPSE all work in harmony, the “wheel of life” of the whole person rolls along in peace and fulfillment.

Lifestyle and its impact on our physical wellbeing

All we do to build up our immune system is affected by “lifestyle.” Here we have a simple meaning for “lifestyle.” It is your style (practice, behavior) of living. Your lifestyle has a big effect on how much (proper) sleep you get, how good your nutrition is, how adequate your exercise is, and how effective your medication is. We say it over and over: these are the most basic elements of a lifestyle compromised by HIV.

If your lifestyle in the past has included long nights in smoky bars, you need to examine how important this is to you because now it is particularly detrimental physically, with or without alcohol. A good lifestyle includes regular sleep, good eating, good friends.

How about sex? Sex is not bad in itself. With or without HIV, responsible sexual expression is part of being a fully human person (when it is experienced with all parts of our IPSE involved).

Very often for LGBT people the problem with sex is not physical, spiritual, or emotional. It is intellectual. From an early age, LGBT people are told, so very wrongly, by their church (and society):

Ever heard something like this before?
Sex is bad
God is watching
You are bad
God is mad

With that kind of teaching, where does one learn that God is the author, inventor and giver of sex. So, we have a lot of learning to do about “sex-positive theology.” And we won’t learn it from most churches. (MCC, for example, and CDOS are treasure houses of good sexual teaching.)

Does HIV mean the end of physical sex? Of course not, but it adds to the always common sense need for responsible living of our sexual lives. That means protected sex, of course, but a meaningful life can include meaningful sexual love-making too. On the other hand, a lifestyle that treats people as things to be used for pleasure will usually lead to lessened ability to conquer the virus.

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Spiritual (S)

The first thing is to understand that spiritual does not mean religious. Some people express some of their spiritual nature in religious ways. Here, we are not speaking of belonging to a religion or doing religious things. We are simply talking about being human.

So with that understanding we continue to develop what it means to have our spiritual side(s) in balance and harmony with the other three components.

Most basically, our spiritual nature is that which gives us the ability to see and have meaning and purpose in our life. Your cat has instincts for food and sex, but not for meaning and purpose.

Spiritual is a component beyond liking. The “liking” instinct may impel you to eat a kilo of chicharon (fried pork fat), but your spiritual ability to eat for the purpose of a healthy body in a good life will guide you beyond the liking instinct to meaning and purpose.

Sex is natural, a good God-given instinct. The spiritual ability to have sex with purpose and meaning will guide you to a meaningful sex life which does not hurt your body, you, or your immune system, but in fact may build up your wholistic health.

Some people find religion a help for their spirituality, whether it is Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, or otherwise. Here, that is not the issue. A truly human, well-grounded, well-rounded human person will recognize that he or she is not the center of the universe and will find a higher power, higher than oneself (in the order of being), where they can center their search for meaning and purpose. For many, that higher Power is God.

Emotional (E)

A well-functioning person has the emotions of being able to be

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Mad
Sad
Glad
Scared

when appropriate — and expressing these feelings appropriately.

A person with HIV, for example, who lives always in fear of the virus gives the virus power and loses control over the virus.

The antidote to fear is doing everything right – wholistically – all the way round, that is, in all the IPSE areas of one’s life.

There is a time and place for each of the emotions. BUT, any one of them could take control of your life. Surely being mad all the time would not be good emotional health or a good way to conquer the virus.

Being sad constantly sets up a platform for weakness in all IPSE areas. The antidote is a spirit of joy. How does one living with HIV experience joy? The answer is: the same as anyone else. The source of joy, humanly speaking, is in friends and friendship. True friendships are mutually caring friendships with friends who care for their friend’s happiness, health, and “joys of life” as much or more than for their own. The practice of “true friendship” is the best start on a joyful life. Some discover even deeper dimensions of joy and friendship in spiritual applications.

SUMMARY

Because of the mind-body-spirit-emotions connection – and they are all connected – all elements should be in place and in healthy operation.

In short, for example, sleep and rest may seem like a physical need. That’s true. But lack of sleep and rest negatively affects the well-being of the whole person. All sorts of health problems flow from lack of sleep.

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Remember that lifestyle (in sleep and in general) affects our overall well-being – positively or negatively—very significantly.

CONCLUSION

With that brief glimpse into how we can function on all four IPSE “cylinders” of a fully human life, with all of our IPSE self in balance and harmony, we begin to see the broad picture of living our life successfully and fully – and conquering the power of HIV.

This essay was prepared after extensive holistic health study and years of working side by side with persons with HIV and AIDS. This version is a condensed portion of a fuller explanation of all the topics mentioned. The longer version can be obtained free of charge from the author by emailing thelgbtwell@gmail.com.

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