Hitting the bars for happy hour?
Hit up a test site every 3-6 months for a rapid HIV test. Easy, fast, convenient.
Is happy hour at one of the local bars with the guys part of your weekly routine? Get a few of your buddies to make HIV testing part of that routine by stopping by a test site every three to six months. It takes less than 30 minutes to get the results of a rapid HIV test, so there’ll be plenty of time to hit the bars and still catch happy hour specials afterwards. It’s also a great way for you and your friends to support each other in getting tested on a regular basis and reduce any shame or embarrassment about going to get tested.
Rapid HIV testing requires either a drop of blood from a finger stick or some cells from a cheek swab, and it takes 20 minutes or less to get the results. Most clinics and mobile testing sites also offer STD testing, so you may as well get the recommended full screening every three to six months while you’re there. Depending on your sexual behaviors and what you’re getting tested for, the screening may require a blood draw (for syphilis), a rectal (butt) swab, a throat swab, or a urine sample. It usually takes about a week (7 days) to get the results of an STD screening, and results are usually provided by phone or mail so that you don’t have to make another trip to the clinic until it’s time for your next test.
Syphilis and the ’80s are back!
Syphilis and the ’80s are back! Especially with guys who bareback. Get tested every 3 months if condoms aren’t your thing.
Parachute pants, flipped up collars, and knockoff Wayfarers are all the rage. So grab your boombox and your favorite mix tape and strut on down to the nearest clinic or your doctor’s office and get tested because syphilis is back with the rest of the 1980s!
During the past decade, there has been a rise in the number of cases of syphilis, particularly among gay and bisexual men. While condoms are the best way to reduce your risk of getting infected with syphilis or other STDs, you can still get syphilis from skin-to-skin contact with someone who is infected and has sores on their external genitals (penis or labia) or in their rectum, vagina, or mouth. If left untreated, syphilis can cause sores, fever, rash, headaches, and fatigue in the short term, and it can eventually lead to blindness, dementia, paralysis, and even death. Find out more about syphilis.
Luckily, syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics, and it’s best to treat it early. If you are sexually active, particularly if you have multiple partners or don’t always use condoms, it’s a good idea to get tested every three months. Find a place to get tested near you.
Worried you might have HIV?
Exercise 30 minutes a day.
Prepare before you party.
Know Your Partner’s Status
If it is important for you to know your partner’s HIV status, ask. It’s as simple as that.
A lot of times, guys make assumptions about their sexual partners’ HIV status. They might say that he never brought it up so that means that he must be negative. Worrying about your partner’s status can cause anxiety and be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Just ask. If you make assumptions, there is a chance that you could put yourself at greater risk for infection.
Talking about your HIV status doesn’t need to be something that is embarrassing or difficult, and the more you talk about it, the easier it gets. It can even be a great way to break the ice on talking about what you like to do sexually. You can also use it as a way to talk about whether or not you are going to only have sex with each other or if one or both of you plan to keep seeing other people. If both of you decide that you are going to only have sex with each other, get tested then wait three to six months and get tested again. If you’re both still HIV negative, you can decide whether or not you want to continue using condoms.
If you or your partner don’t know your status, it’s a good idea to use condoms, particularly when you are having anal or vaginal sex. If you have been infected, it can take three to six months after infection for an HIV test to show up positive. You can even get tested together and support each other in remembering to get tested on a regular basis. Find a place that provides HIV testing near you.
Choose healthy snacks when you are feeling munchy.
You wouldn’t fill your car up with junk, so why fill your belly up with junk food? Choose healthy snacks when you are feeling munchy.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of eating junk food and fast food whenever we want a snack or are eating on the run. Junk food is easily available, cheap, and can taste good. The problem is that most junk food is high in calories, full of processed sugar and salt, and has little to no nutritional value. Instead of grabbing that soda and bag of chips at the corner store or picking up a shake and a large order of fries at the drive-thru, consider some of these healthier choices and stock up your fridge and pantry the next time you’re at the grocery store:
If you buy energy bars or drink protein shakes at the gym, be sure to check the calories on the package and choose products that don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup but are high in fiber and protein. Why spend all that time working out at the gym if you’re going to turn around and eat 1,000 calories? Eat a banana, instead! Try opening it from the “bottom.” You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to open and you won’t end up with a squished banana!
If you do eat fast food, eat it in moderation (no more than once a week) and get a regular cheeseburger, small fries, and a small drink, instead of the 1/4-pounder, large fries, and a large soda — by doing so you can reduce the calories by more than 2/3 and you won’t feel bloated afterward.
Drink a lot of sodas or coffee during the day? Carry a water bottle around with you and fill it up at the faucet or water cooler. You’ll be surprised how much you cut down at the vending machine for sodas. If you absolutely have to drink soda, drink a low-calorie or diet soda instead.
For more information about diet and nutrition, use the SuperTracker.
Feel your heart beat?
Take your right hand and place it above your left breast. Feel your heart beat? You are alive.
Staying heart healthy is an important part of overall health that involves regular checkups, eating right, avoiding stress, and getting plenty of exercise. If it’s been a while since your last checkup, make an appointment with your doctor or clinic for a physical. They’ll check your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and look for any possible signs of heart disease. If you have high blood pressure, be sure to take your medicine per your doctor’s orders and check your blood pressure on a regular basis (you can find a blood pressure machine in most large drug stores). If your doctor puts you on cholesterol lowering meds, be sure to take them as directed and follow instructions on eating and exercise habits.
You can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke by making sure that you get plenty of exercise, eat a healthy diet, and avoid tobacco use. Adults ages 18–64 need to get 30 minutes of exercise most days every week. You should also eat a diet of dark leafy greens (such as kale and spinach), lean proteins (such as chicken breasts or meat substitutes), and lots of whole grains. Cutting back on eating high-fat foods can help, as well — instead of eating two slices of pepperoni pizza, eat one slice loaded with vegetables! And if you smoke, consider stopping today. There are lots of support groups and smoking cessation programs available.
Keeping your ticker in shape will ensure that you can enjoy life to the fullest. Now go out and do something that you love like hitting the beach, going for a hike, seeing a great movie, or even just coffee with an old friend. You’re ALIVE!
To learn more about heart health and avoiding high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, visit Million Hearts.
Getting an HIV test?
Getting an HIV test can be as simple as swabbing your cheek. No need for needles. Get Tested!
“I’m afraid of needles.”
“The sight of blood makes me feel queasy.”
“I can’t wait two weeks and make two visits to the clinic to get tested and get my results.”
We’ve all made excuses to avoid getting tested for HIV. And in the past, they did have to take blood and you did have to wait two weeks to get your results. Not anymore! These days, all it takes is a simple swab of the inside of your cheek and you have your results in about twenty minutes. It can still be scary to go get tested. Most people say they’d rather know though whether they are negative or positive. It’s the best decision for today and you’re your future. So, stop making excuses and go get tested, today. Find a free or low cost clinic in Oregon at STDTest.org
While you’re there, you can get tested for other STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes. For many of us, testing is recommended every 3-6 months. For example, if you have had more than one sex partner since your last test, consider making testing a part of your routine, including your regular health checkups. Some STDs, like gonorrhea and syphilis, are more easily transmitted via sucking (oral sex) than HIV is, and even if you use condoms for anal, some STDs can be passed by skin-to-skin contact in places the condom doesn’t cover (like herpes and HPV, the virus that causes genital warts). It’s also good to make sure that you don’t have an STD because having one can increase your risk of getting infected with HIV if the person you’re having sex with is infected.
Testing for STDs is as important as regular testing for HIV.
Did you know? Regular testing for STDs and Hepatitis is as important as regular testing for HIV. Find free and low-cost testing near you. m.stdtest.org
Most of us have heard that if you’re sexually active, you should get tested for HIV every three to six months. What we may not have heard is that it’s also important to get tested for other STDs and hepatitis on regular basis. The good news is that you can usually get tested for everything during the same visit.
Getting tested regularly is a great habit to get into as part of your health routine. You can make it your time to speak with a doctor or nurse about any questions you might have about your sexual health.
Why care about STDs? People who have an STD or hepatitis are more likely to become infected with HIV if their partner is infected. STDs like syphilis and herpes can cause open sores in and around your mouth, anus, or penis, making it easier for HIV to enter your bloodstream. Having an STD or hepatitis can also cause your immune system to be less effective at fighting off infections, including HIV. Plus, people who are HIV+ and have another STD like gonorrhea tend to have more virus (HIV) in their semen and other genital fluids.
In order to reduce your chances of becoming infected with HIV, it’s important to find out if you have any STDs or hepatitis and to get treatment early if you are infected.
Using condoms is the best way to reduce your risk of STDs. And even though the risk of HIV through oral sex is fairly low, particularly if your partner doesn’t ejaculate in your mouth, you can still get infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia during oral sexual activity.
When you get tested for STDs, be sure your doctor knows what types of sex you’re engaging in. This will help him/her figure out if you need to urinate in a cup (vaginal sex), and/or take a swab from your mouth (oral sex) or anus (anal sex).
Sleepyhead? Kickstart your day with breakfast.
Grab fruit, skim milk, cereal to boost your energy early.
Didn’t your mother tell you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? While not exactly true, breakfast is part of a nutritious diet and healthy eating habit, and we’re not talking about donuts or a greasy egg sandwich. When you skip breakfast, you’re likely not to eat anything until later in the day or end up grabbing a candy bar or bag of chips out of the vending machine when you start feeling hungry, and you’re more likely to feel sluggish and cranky. Start your day with some fresh fruit and a bowl of whole grain cereal with skim milk to boost your energy and get you off to a good start for the day. Good nutrition and a healthy diet are important for everyone, but paying attention to what you eat is particularly important for people who are HIV+.
When you are taking HIV medications, you may have bouts of nausea and/or diarrhea. You might also experience lipodsytrophy — changes in where your body fat is located — and increases in your cholesterol levels. A healthy diet can improve your overall health and make you feel better. A healthy diet is high in fruits and vegetables (three to six servings per day) and whole grains, includes lean proteins with a small amount of good fat, and limits foods and drinks high in sugar.
People who are HIV+ are at greater risk for food-borne and water-borne illnesses because of their weakened immune systems and often have a harder time recovering from those illnesses. Below are some tips for food and water safety:
To learn more about HIV and nutrition, talk to your case manager or visit aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics
Partner is HIV+ too?
Partner is HIV+ too? Use condoms when having sex. There are strains of HIV resistant to meds. Don’t mix them.
Some HIV+ guys are choosing to have bareback sex (sex without a condom) with other HIV+ guys. There are sex parties for HIV+ guys only, websites where HIV+ guys can meet other HIV+ guys for unprotected sex, and ads on Craigslist and other sites for HIV+ guys who are seeking to hook up for unprotected sex with other HIV+ guys. While it is always an individual’s choice whether or not to use a condom, there are at least two reasons that you might want to think about using a condom when you are having sex with other HIV+ guys.
First, it is possible to get re-infected with HIV. As some people living with HIV do not take their HIV meds (antiretrovirals) consistently, strains of HIV have developed that are resistant to different drugs — this means that some meds may not work if you are infected with a resistant strain. The best way to protect yourself from getting infected with a resistant strain of HIV, or infecting someone else, is to use a condom, particularly for anal sex.
The other reason for using a condom when having sex with other HIV+ guys is the risk of contracting another STD, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, and genital warts. Unprotected sex (without a condom), particularly anal and vaginal sex with multiple partners is one of the highest risk behaviors for all STDs. In addition, HIV+ people may be more susceptible to infections, including STDs, because HIV can weaken your immune system. The best way to avoid contracting an STD is the correct and consistent use of a condom, particularly when having anal sex.
To read more about HIV+ guys having sex with HIV+ guys, check out thebody.com
Yoga, acupuncture, herbs: We need more than meds to stay healthy
It’s important to take your meds as directed and see your doctor on a regular basis. However, there are many other types of services and products that can help you stay healthy and deal with stress and the side effects of HIV meds. Many of these therapies are based on non-Western treatments and have become increasingly popular in the last decade. Some people choose these treatments as a way to complement their medical treatment. Before starting a new treatment regimen of any kind, be sure to talk to your doctor, especially if you are planning on taking herbs or supplements. To learn more about complementary and alternative therapies, visit Complementarty Therapies
Non-Western (sometimes called Holistic) treatments are generally placed in two categories: body (physical) therapies such as yoga, massage, acupuncture and herbal remedies. Body therapies have been shown to be good for reducing stress, relieving aches and pains, and curbing the side effects of HIV medications. Yoga is a series of poses, stretches, breathing techniques, and meditation — classes are often available at community centers, gyms, and health centers just about anywhere. If you are seeking massage or acupuncture treatments (a Chinese medicine practice of inserting needles into different “points” on the body), be sure to locate a licensed practitioner. Discounted and/or free services are often available to people with HIV/AIDS and may even be covered by your health insurance.
Herbal remedies are plant-based treatments sold over the counter and at specialty stores. These remedies can contain powerful drugs and may interact with prescription HIV meds. For example, St. John’s wort for depression has been shown to affect HIV medication effectiveness. Do not take herbal remedies without consulting your doctor.
You’ve probably heard a great deal about medical marijuana and HIV. Marijuana and the active ingredient, THC, have been used to help manage the side effects of some HIV medications, particularly to fight nausea and wasting. People who use it say that it improves their appetite and helps them keep food down. Testing positive for HIV/AIDS is a qualifying medical condition under the Medical Marijuana Program in Oregon. To find out more about the program, visit Medical Marijuana
If you live in the Portland-Vancouver area, check out the Immune Enhance Project.
Also, the community resource database 211info.org.
Regular exercise is important for good health
Exercise 30 minutes a day. That’s all it takes to get moving. Go with a friend, and start 2 or 3 days a week if 7 days feels like too much.
Regular exercise is important for good health regardless of your HIV status; however, there are some specific health benefits of exercise for HIV+ people. There is evidence that regular exercise may increase CD4 cell counts and slow the progression of HIV and AIDS. It also helps improve the immune system, in general, and helps fight other infections. Physical activity also can reduce depression, decrease the chance of heart disease and cancer, maintain and/or increase muscle mass, and decrease fat, along with tons of other health benefits.
It is recommended that adults 18–64 get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week (30 minutes per day, five days a week) plus muscle strengthening exercises (e.g., weight lifting) that work all major muscle groups two days a week. Activities that provide moderate aerobic exercise include walking briskly, water aerobics, or riding a bike less than 10 miles per hour. You know you’re doing moderate aerobic activities when you can talk normally but would be unable to sing.
If 30 minutes a day feels like too much for you, you can break it up into three 10-minute sessions throughout the day. You might also want to have a workout buddy — you’ll both help each other stay motivated. You could take a class or get a personal trainer at your local gym. The key is to find something that you enjoy doing and make it a regular part of your routine.
For more information on being HIV+ and exercise, visit aids.gov.
Will my meds work if I am partying?
If you’re out drinking and partying, your meds will still work. Best to take them before you go out so you don’t forget once you’re having fun.
You don’t have to give up hitting the bars for happy hour or going to a friend’s house to party when you start taking HIV medications. Yay. And here are a few tips to help you stay in balance while having a good time.
Alcohol and party drugs are meant to help us relax. They lower inhibitions and we do things we wouldn’t normally do, like not use a condom during sex. If you know you’re headed out for the night, put a new condom in your pocket and make sure it’s not expired and that the packaging doesn’t have any holes in it.
Another thing that can happen when you’re partying, is forgetting to take your meds. Taking them before you go out can take care of that! And if you do miss a dose, take your meds as soon as you notice, then take the next dose at your regular time. If you find you’re missing your meds a lot, talk to you doctor about your options.
Most of us have experienced the effects of a night of heavy drinking or partying. Your liver detoxifies and removes waste from your body, including waste products from your HIV meds, alcohol, and other drugs. If using alcohol or other drugs, it’s best to do so in moderation. This is even more important if you’re taking HIV meds. People on HIV medications have reported that it takes them longer to recover from a hangover. You need your liver to process your meds, so it could be that your liver is working overtime to process the toxins that are left in your body after a night out on the town. When you’re out, drink lots of water, and eat a meal early in the night. When you do overdo it, remember that the best remedy for a hangover is lots of water, rest, and time.
Another concern about taking party drugs when you are taking HIV meds is how the two interact with each another. For instance, the effect of drugs like ritonavir (Norvir) and crystal meth or other amphetamines can have a stronger effect on you. This is because it takes your body much longer to break down crystal meth and other drugs when your liver is working hard processing your HIV meds. If you do take party drugs, take a quarter of what you would normally take and see how you feel.
You can talk to your doctor about what party drugs you’re taking – it might be weird and a little hard at first, but your doctor won’t judge you and you won’t get in trouble for telling him or her. Once you do, you can ask questions, and he or she can let you know if there is anything you should avoid.
Always forgetting? Me, too.
You’ve probably heard or read about adherence and HIV medication — it means taking your meds every day at the same time without missing a dose. This is very important for treating HIV successfully. Unlike blood pressure medicine or allergy pills that will keep working if you stop taking them, missing HIV medication too many times can lead to drug resistance, meaning the meds will no longer work. There are a number of things you can do to make sure that you take your meds on time every day.
Get text or email reminders to take your meds and get your prescriptions filled.
Buy a pillbox with the days of the week on it and fill it up at the beginning of every week. HIV case managers are often able to provide pillboxes for free.
Make taking your meds part of your daily routine; for example, take them when you brush your teeth in the morning and when you brush your teeth before bed at night.
Plan ahead and take your meds with you when you go out of town or even when you head out in the evening — in case you hook up and don’t make it home before your next dose.
Keep an eye on your supply and don’t wait until you run out to refill your prescription. If picking up your meds from the pharmacy is challenging and you are a CAREAssist client, contact CAREAssist to ask about receiving your medication refills by mail.
If you are thinking about stopping medication or going on a “drug holiday” where you stop taking your meds for a specific time period, talk to your doctor first. If you are having a hard time sticking to a daily regimen, you might also want to speak with your doctor or case manager about what’s going on and find out if there is another option that might better fit your lifestyle. To find out more about medication adherence, check out the pointers here: aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics
Clean teeth are key to managing HIV
Keep your smile beautiful. Clean teeth are key to managing HIV.
Good dental hygiene is important for everyone and is an essential part of your health routine. People living with HIV/AIDS are at a greater risk of getting cavities or having gum disease. Not only does HIV affect the immune system, but some meds can cause you to have dry mouth, which can make you even more prone to cavities. If you are experiencing dry mouth, talk to your doctor or dentist; there are things that they can do and prescribe to help.
Being HIV positive may also make you more likely to experience opportunistic infections in your mouth. People with HIV are more likely to develop thrush, canker sores, oral warts, and fever blisters. In fact, most of these symptoms can suggest that something is wrong with your immune system; they may indicate a need to start medication or be a sign that current meds are not working the way they should. If you notice any sores or have any other dental problems, visit your dentist or dental clinic as soon as possible.
As part of a healthy dental routine, brush your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, floss daily, and visit your dentist on a regular basis for checkups and cleanings. Not only will a healthy dental routine help you avoid cavities and gum disease, it’ll keep your smile looking great and your breath fresh. For more information about dental health and HIV, visit HIV.gov
If you don’t have a dentist, ask your doctor for a referral to someone who specializes in treating people with HIV. If you can’t afford a dentist and you are an Oregon resident, visit Oregon Health Plan or talk to your case manager to find out if you qualify for assistance. In many cases, HIV case managers are able to help clients access dental services at no cost or at a reduced cost. To find a case manager in your area, visit Oregon.gov.
Broke? Want to know more about paying for your health care?
Broke? Want to know more about paying for your health care? Visit Oregon Health Plan.
Out of work? Working a low paying job? Don’t have health insurance? Paying for doctor’s visits, lab work, and meds can be expensive and stressful. Fortunately, programs are available to help you with your expenses. Low-income Oregonians and those with a disability may qualify for the Oregon Health Plan. Learn more about the program, find out if you are qualified, and fill out an application at Oregon Health Plan.
Even if you do not qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, you may be eligible to receive assistance through the CAREAssist Program — Oregon’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). CAREAssist will help cover the costs of medications, doctor’s visits, and help you pay for private insurance. If you are out of meds and are not yet covered by CAREAssist, you may qualify for the Medication Bridge Program and receive a 30-day supply of medication for your HIV care. The Bridge Program also can help cover the costs of medical visits and lab tests to help determine the best treatment regimen for you.
Oregonians with HIV can also access case management services. HIV case managers can help you enroll in insurance and other benefits and link you to services to help you stay healthy.
Research: An undetectable viral load
Research: An undetectable viral load may greatly decrease, but not eliminate, the risk of transmitting HIV.
Most people on antiretroviral treatment experience a decrease in their viral load (the amount of HIV that is present in their blood), some to the point that the virus is undetectable. This means that when doctors run tests to determine how much HIV is present in a person’s blood, the tests they run are unable to detect the virus. This test is different than an HIV antibody test — a blood or swab test that is used to determine if someone is HIV+. Someone with an undetectable viral load will still test positive for HIV.
Having an undetectable viral load does not mean that you have been cured or that you no longer have HIV. And while an undetectable viral load may mean that there is less of a chance of passing the virus on to a sexual partner, it does not mean that it won’t happen. In fact, there is some evidence that HIV may still be present and detectable in semen when someone has an undetectable viral load in their blood. When you are having sex with a partner, particularly if you are topping (the insertive partner in oral and anal sex), it’s a good idea to always use a condom. Using a condom when you have an undetectable viral load is one of the most effective ways of preventing the transmission of HIV.
Can’t get to the clinic for your checkup?
Ask your doc for a gas card, or a bus ticket. Some clinics even offer custom medical transport
In Oregon, most public health clinics receive money to provide services for HIV+ individuals and their families. Ask your case manager what transportation services may be available to you. Free or discounted transportation is only one of many different types of services that may be available for free or on a sliding scale (pay what you can). And if you don’t have health insurance or if your insurance doesn’t cover all of the costs of your office visits, lab work, and meds, you may be eligible for state funding to help.
If you are an Oregon resident who is HIV+ or has AIDS, the CAREAssist program, Oregon’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), can help cover the costs of your medical expenses. If you qualify, CAREAssist can cover the cost of your insurance premiums and/or your co-pays for doctor’s visits and meds. If you are out of your meds and need them right now, you may be able to get emergency money to cover the costs through the Medication Bridge Program. You might also be able to get your doctor’s visit and lab work covered through the Bridge Program, as well. To find out more, call 971-673-0144 or 1-800-805-2313.
In addition to help with the cost of medical care, there are other services available to residents of Oregon who are HIV+. You can get help finding a place to live and assistance with paying your rent, if needed. Low-income residents are also qualified to receive money to help pay their heating bills. Because it can be difficult to figure out what is available to you and how to get those services and resources, there are case managers who can help you.
To find a case manager in your area, call the Oregon AIDS Hotline at 1-800-777-2437 or visit Oregon.gov
Instead of focusing on who’s not around, use your mental energy to think of who’s there for you. Then, call them!
HIV doesn’t just affect your physical health. It can have an impact on your social, emotional, and spiritual health as well. Getting an HIV diagnosis, taking meds all the time, and adjusting to the side effects is a lot to deal with on your own. It’s not uncommon for people who are HIV+ to feel sad or even experience depression. Sometimes you may feel lonely and even hopeless, and that’s normal. You don’t have to deal with all of this alone. You can always reach out to a friend, and there are lots of professionals and volunteers who are waiting to help you. If you feel sad or depressed for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor or visit a clinic – they can help you decide if taking anti-depressants may help.
Here are a few things you can do to help build a strong social network and to help you when you’re feeling down:
To find out what mental health services are available in your community, text your zip code to 898211 (standard text message rates may apply).