Why I started a podcast called “Aunty Lou’s Hour”  for people living with HIV

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I had finally got my life back on track.  Divorced with three kids, a new job, new car, new start.  

When I found out I had HIV my world came crashing down.  I was alone when I was given my test results.  “You tested positive for HIV”  My head felt heavy and the room started to spin, I was speechless.  A blonde lady sat in front of me with kind eyes.  It will be ok my darling, think of it like cancer, it doesn’t mean you’re going to die.  Did she just say the C word!  Oh my god.  I went home alone, lay on my sofa and curled up into a ball and cried.

Living with HIV

When the kids came home I put on a brave face, but once they had gone to school I started to look at my Will.  I contacted my private health insurance to make a claim, as I expected a £100,000 payout –  but they told me that HIV is not covered.  Another kick in the teeth.  How much more could I endure?  How much more could I lose?

I dissociated from my body, I didn’t like who I was, I felt contaminated.  I felt ashamed, sad, scared, and lonely. I lost my femininity and sexuality.  How could I ever have sex again?  I felt like my life was over.

The clinic  told me that once I start taking the medication I cannot transmit the virus.  But that didn’t stop the fear and dread that arose in me that if i got into a relationship I would have to tell them I have HIV (even though it was untransmittable)

I decided that if my life was going to be over, I would see if there was something I could do to ease the pain.  That’s when I started to learn how to meditate, I learned how to go within to search for inner peace.  I learned how to be still. I learned that I worry a lot, and meditation gave me permission not to worry about the past or the future, I only had to connect with the present moment – and that present moment was not noisy, it was silent.

I spent my childhood worrying about school, only to realise as an adult that I was dyslexic.  I spent my teenage years worrying that I would cause shame on the family if i dont settle down and get married because of my catholic upbringing.  I spent my adult life worrying about getting into a relationship with men because of domestic violence and HIV.  I worried about raising my children and wanted to do a good job as a single parent. 

The biggest learning I had to undertake was learning about how to live well.  Living well meant I had to look after my mind, body and soul.  It took over 10 years of work, I changed jobs and worked for a domestic abuse refuge.  I became vegan, read lots of books, stopped drinking and smoking and trained as a multi-style yoga facilitator – and became an intersectional wellness coach.  

I met the man of my dreams, he was also vegan and a yoga teacher and we got engaged.  I feel supported and I refer to him as my spiritual partner.  After many years of living in fear of HIV stigma, I found the strength to come “out” on social media and advocate and support people around the world on HIV stigma and living well.

I now have the space to reflect on the impact that HIV had on my life, the fear, the judgement, the sadness, the suppression.

HIV stigma takes a toll on the social lives of those affected. Many face strained relationships with family, friends, and colleagues, as misinformation and unfounded fears about HIV persist. Isolation from loved ones can leave people feeling abandoned and emotionally detached, exacerbating the already challenging journey of managing the virus. 

Moreover, HIV stigma can have significant repercussions on access to healthcare. People may avoid seeking medical attention or disclosing their HIV status due to fear of judgement from healthcare providers. 

As a global community, we must unite in the fight against HIV stigma. By challenging stereotypes and standing in solidarity with those affected, we can create a world where people living with HIV are empowered to lead fulfilling lives free from prejudice. 

Studies show that women face double stigma due to gender norms and HIV status, leading to reduced access to healthcare and support. Gay men experience higher levels of stigma, affecting their mental health and social connections. Heterosexual men may face reluctance in seeking HIV testing and treatment due to masculinity norms. In all cases, education, awareness, and support programs prove crucial in combating stigma. 

Living well with HIV is entirely achievable with the right approach and support.

Here are some essential tips to enhance physical health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life for individuals living with HIV:

Adhere to Treatment: Strictly follow the prescribed antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimen. Consistent medication adherence helps control the virus and maintains a healthy immune system.

Healthy Lifestyle: Adopt a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Regular exercise boosts the immune system, reduces stress, and enhances overall well-being.

Mental Health Support: HIV can impact mental health. Seek professional counselling or support groups to cope with emotional challenges and reduce stress.

Avoid Substance Abuse: Substance abuse can worsen HIV outcomes. Avoid risky behaviours and substances that may compromise health or interactions with medications.

Combat Stigma: Educate others about HIV to combat misconceptions and reduce stigma. Building a supportive network helps improve emotional health.

Stay Positive: A positive outlook and a strong support system can make a significant difference in living well with HIV.

Living well with HIV is entirely possible, and with the right approach, people can lead fulfilling lives and thrive in their communities.
HIV empowered me to be free!  I started a podcast called “Aunty Lou’s Hour”  for people living with HIV on you tube.  

Terrence Higgins Trust provides support services, information, and advocacy for people living with and affected by HIV. They also promote HIV prevention and work to eliminate stigma surrounding the virus.

National AIDS Trust (NAT): NAT is a policy and campaigning charity dedicated to ending the HIV epidemic in the UK. They advocate for the rights of people living with HIV and work to shape public policy to ensure equitable access to healthcare and support services.

Positive East: Based in London, Positive East offers a range of services for people affected by HIV, including counselling, support groups, and advice on living with the condition. They also focus on HIV prevention and raise awareness in local communities.

George House Trust: Operating in the North West of England, George House Trust provides practical and emotional support to people living with HIV. They offer services such as welfare advice, counselling, and peer support to improve the lives of those affected by the virus.

Written by: Louise Vallace – Follow on Instagram @positiveyoga.uk

The post Why I started a podcast called “Aunty Lou’s Hour”  for people living with HIV appeared first on Wellbeing Magazine.

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