Archive for March 2014

How Yoga helped me choose to live with HIV, instead of dying of AIDS

March 28, 2014

Alexander Smith explains his own viral mindfulness and how doing yoga’s corpse pose helped him appreciate his own life (from HIVplusmag.com) …

Alexander Smith

Alexander Smith

Difficult poses (asana) are expected in life and on the yoga mat. Hatha yoga is a style of yoga common in the West that focuses on poses and breathing. As we pose, we learn to sit with the pain and discomfort that arises in our bodies, and we become aware of the suffering in our minds that is attached to our thoughts and story. In a place of discomfort, we often let go of the breath (pranayama), which is there to strengthen and sustain us.

It is taught that shavasana — best known as the corpse pose or dead man’s pose — is the most difficult of all the poses. To assume the posture, lie down on your back, allow your feet to fall outward, rest your arms at your sides with palms facing upward, and let your breath follow its inherent inhaling and exhaling pattern. At the end of our practice we traditionally assume this pose. In the giant metaphor of sitting like a corpse, we have an empty space to release all effort in mind and body. Do nothing. Completely surrender. And experience the sweet spot of shavasana.

Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness drive us toward a strength that rises when we surrender everything. It reminds us that the happiness we seek is already here.

At the end of summer a couple of years ago I posed in my own version of a dead man. Facing the fact that my strain of HIV had mutated and developed a resistance to my current cocktail of antiretrovirals, I stood at a crossroads. After a decade I could stop taking pills and lean toward my own corpse pose. Set down the worry and frustration and struggle I experience in posing with this virus. Develop AIDS, catch an opportunistic infection or two, and be dead within a year.

As I surrendered in this pose I noticed that by focusing so much on my death I had distracted myself from stories of life. In a place of complete honesty and reproach, I made a decision to build me a life. I recommitted myself to regular practice of meditation and yoga — with compassion — and I started by cleaning my entire house, doing the laundry and dishes, feeding my body, and taking my medications.

When I checked the online schedule of yoga classes I saw a picture of a beautiful man and yogi. Posing. I recognized him from years earlier. We had shared a neutral greeting when I attended a class at his studio in Laguna Beach, Calif. I was super excited to think he would be teaching class that day. Perhaps he is my future husband, I thought hopefully. When I looked deeper for class details I realized the picture was in honor and memory of his life. My future husband was dead, but somehow I found comfort in the eerie coincidence — and I marveled at the beauty and strength in his pose.

Continue reading on HIVplusmag.com

Web admin’s note: A beginner’s Hatha Yoga class is held at the Shepherd Wellness Community in Bloomfield every Thursday from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. The class is not sponsored by Shepherd Wellness but it is in a confidential and safe environment.  Class participants are asked to contribute as they are able. Suggested donation is $10 per week. Participants are asked to wear loose fitting clothing, bring a mat and pillows for comfort and to come on an empty stomach. We practice mindful meditation and gentle stretching to strengthen our inner core and well being.  Accommodations are made for everyone regardless of abilities, including chair options.

 

 

 

Obama appoints HIV/AIDS activist as new AIDS czar

March 25, 2014

From the Washington Times

President Obama on Monday appointed as his new AIDS czar Douglas Brooks, an activist on health care policy who has been living with the HIV virus for more than 20 years. Mr. Brooks has served most recently as senior vice president at the Justice Resource Institute in Boston, a nonprofit which provides outreach mental health treatment and services people with HIV/AIDS. He also has served on the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition in Washington, and was appointed by Mr. Obama in 2010 to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. “Douglas’s policy expertise combined with his extensive experience working in the community makes him uniquely suited to the task of helping to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “I look forward to having him lead our efforts from the White House.”

As director of the White House Office on National AIDS Policy, Mr. Brooks will lead the administration’s work to reduce new HIV infections, improve health outcomes for people living with HIV, and eliminate HIV health disparities in the United States, the White House said. A licensed social worker, Mr. Brooks replaces Dr. Grant Colfax, who served in the post for two years.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com

 

The fight against HIV/AIDS is vital to a future without tuberculosis

March 25, 2014

From AIDS.gov

Today, Monday, March 24, 2014, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) joins the international community in commemorating World TB Day and those who have lost their lives to this terrible disease; TB is second only to HIV/AIDS in global deaths due to infectious diseases. Moreover, the World Health Organization estimates that at least one-third of the nearly 36 million people living with HIV/AIDS are also infected with TB. TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. With these two diseases so closely linked, the 2015 Millennium Development Goal of a 50 percent reduction of TB-related deaths is integral to achieving an AIDS-free generation.

Despite the staggering cost of lives due to co-infection between TB and HIV, we at PEPFAR, in conjunction with our partners implementing TB programs around the world, are encouraged to see progress over the past few years in combatting co-infection. In 2012:

  • Rates of ART coverage among TB/HIV patients globally rose from 49 percent in 2011 to 57 percent.
  • 4.1 million people enrolled in HIV care were screened for TB in 2012, up from 3.5 million in 2011.
  • The percentage of TB patients who knew their HIV status rose from 69 percent in 2011 to 74 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

The effects of co-infection between HIV and TB cannot be understated which is why PEPFAR addresses the deadly links between these two diseases as a top policy and programmatic priority. Our efforts are focused on prevention, care, and treatment programs as outlined in the 2012 PEPFAR Blueprint [PDF 2.83KB].

Continue reading on AIDS.gov.

Black voices: leveraging digital tools to reach and engage Black gay men

March 21, 2014

From AIDS.gov

More Americans than ever before have access to Internet-enabled technologies and are participating in online social networking platforms. This trend is particularly notable among women, African-Americans, and Latinos and provides hope that effective use of new social technologies could reshape how we reach, engage, and mobilize vulnerable populations such as Black gay men (BGM) and other men who have sex with men (MSM) who are disproportionately impacted by the domestic HIV epidemic. For example, recent data from the The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project indicate that while the digital divide persists as it relates to Internet access, African-Americans use mobile devices at the same rate as their peers and lead the way in participation in social media such as Twitter.

There is little data available about how BGM/MSM are using social technologies. So, last year, as part of ongoing efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of BGM/MSM, The National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC) launched a national survey to learn about the online communication habits of Black gay men. The survey’s goals are to better understand how BGM/MSM use the Internet to communicate and receive national health policy and advocacy information. The data gathered from this survey will contribute to our understanding of how to effectively leverage the Internet for outreach and engagement around health information and national policy issues of importance to BGM/MSM across the nation.

Preliminary survey data highlight the importance of social networking platforms like Facebook in connecting with communities of Black gay men and sharing health policy and advocacy information. The data also reflect a notable level of interest in biomedical HIV prevention tools like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Findings like these point to the growing importance of making information available about HIV prevention in a way that meets the needs of the populations most impacted the epidemic. If you are a Black gay, bisexual or same-gender loving man, please take a moment to complete the brief survey and share with your networks. If not, please also consider sharing with any colleagues, friends or loved ones who may be willing to participate and help us to shed light on the communication, health information, and policy and advocacy needs of this underserved community.

To complete the survey, click here or copy and paste the survey’s URL into your Internet browser: http://svy.mk/15KFMwc .

Being out to your doctor is important for your overall health

March 20, 2014

Why you should consider coming out to your doctor…

There are lots of reasons why men who have sex with men (MSM) don’t tell their doctors about their sexual preferences. But whatever the reason, it is important to keep in mind that who you have sex with can have a serious impact on your health. MSM need to be aware of the unique medical issues that their heterosexual counterparts may not have to worry so much about. For example, MSM have higher rates of HIV, Syphilis, HPV, anal cancer, and hepatitis (just to name a few). In short, your doctor can help you stay on top of the added health issues if he or she knows your sexual preference.

Finding an LGBT-friendly doctor…

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) keeps an online list of gay-friendly medical providers. It’s especially helpful if you live in or near a large city. You can go to their Website, www.glma.org, and search under their resources link by zip code. If the GLMA database doesn’t have any options near you, and you’re not willing to make a road trip, you’ll have to go about finding a doctor the traditional way: Meet potential providers and interview them. Ask questions, be honest. Doctors work for their patients, not the other way around. Keep shopping until you find one that you can be honest with. It may take some detective work but maintaining your health is worth it.

To subscribe to Pitt Men’s Study Health Alerts, send a message to PMS@stophiv.pitt.edu with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.

BOTTOMS UP – a workshop for safe and hot anal sex

March 12, 2014

safe sexy anal sex ad

Staggering 12 % of young gay black men in Atlanta getting HIV per year

March 11, 2014

From aidsmeds.com

AtlantaSnowA staggering 12 percent of young gay black men in Atlanta are contracting HIV each year, an incidence rate exceeding that of almost all other previously recorded figures in the world’s wealthier nations, aidsmap reports. At this rate, a sexually active black man who becomes sexually active at age 18 has a 60 percent chance of becoming HIV positive by the time he hits 30. Researchers presented these troubling findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston.

Researchers at Atlanta’s Emory School of Public Health uncovered this statistic in their InvolveMENt study, which was a longitudinal cohort study of black and white HIV-negative men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 18 and 39. Of the 803 men initially recruited, 56 percent were black and the rest were white. Forty-four percent of the black men were HIV positive, compared with 13 percent of the whites. The study then followed 260 black and 302 white HIV-negative men for up to two years. Seventy-nine percent remained in the study through the follow-up, providing 832 person years of data.

The black men were 3.8 times more likely than the whites to acquire the virus. Ignoring the race of the man becoming infected, those who had black sexual partners were 4.5 times more likely to acquire the virus than those who did not. Unprotected sex raised the risk of becoming HIV positive by a factor of 4.8. Those who had partners at least a decade older were 2.8-times as likely to contract the virus.

Continue reading aidsmeds.com