Infection with the AIDS virus has led me over the last couple of years to examine many of my personal habits. I truly want to believe that there are “cofactors” involved in how AIDS develops and that I have some amount of control of them. There must be a logical explanation why some folks who get infected are dead within two years and others who have been infected for nearly ten years and still carry the virus are in good health.
As I consider co-factors that may play a role in who does and does not get AIDS, at least in the short run, they fall into two categories. There are those we have control over and those we do not.
Co-factors that may enter into the development of AIDS over which we have no control might include the following:
- genetics – some people may just have an innate ability to keep the virus contained;
- the particular strain of the virus – some may be more lethal than others;
- past history – of sexually transmitted diseases.
Cofactors that may enter into the development of AIDS which we do have control over could include:
- stress, nutrition,
- drugs and alcohol,
- tobacco, and perhaps most importantly
- re-exposure to the AIDS virus or infection with other sexually transmitted agents such as syphilis, CMV, EBV, hepatitis, etc.
It is very important, as you embark on positive lifestyle changes and take control of your health in an attempt to impact your HIV (AIDS virus) infection, that you have worked through or are dealing with issues of guilt. This isn’t easy! Society’s message about being gay is that it is bad. AIDS by inference then has become the bad disease that bad people get. The AIDS crisis will not be resolved until it is realized by rational people that dying from causes related to this retrovirus carries no more or less significance than death from any cause.
There are many people telling us how we should view our HIV infection. Everyone from the Pope to more “progressive” elements is urging us to balance our yin and yang. My response is “get off my skirt.” We get infected with the AIDS virus and it winds up killing some of us because we are human beings. Death is inevitable and everlasting life on earth is not an option.
If there is a task we are given in life it is, in my estimation, the need to reach a balanced state where we realize that we are an integral part of the universe and that the life cycle includes both birth and death as equally integral parts. People don’t die because they’re bad or because they happened to fuck the wrong person or because they ate the wrong foods or because they had a negative attitude about themselves. People die because it is a natural part of the life cycle. How you approach your death is so very important. We rob ourselves if death catches us feeling that we are a piece of “faggot shit” and wishing we had been straight.
Something else you can control is your diet. As you approach changes in your diet don’t do so from a position of wanting to atone for past sins but rather with the attitude that this can improve your quality of life right now. Changes in diet are usually not easy and will require a certain amount of perseverance, experimentation and research into what are and are not healthful foods for you. Seeking information on what constitutes a good diet can be a mind boggling experience. There are a lot of dietary trips available and some of them are advertised with nearly fanatical zeal. Fanatical zeal should always^be suspect whether it is around religion, politics, the Broncos or food!
With very rare exceptions allopathic (regular medical doctors) physicians are absolutely the last people to ask about diet. A physician for whom I have great respect and someone who probably knows more about AIDS than anyone else in Colorado has been seen on more than one occasion to be consuming a Pepsi and a Snickers candy bar for lunch! Maybe your physician can give you some good advice on food but don’t count on it.
I believe the healthiest way for me to approach changes in diet, that may or may not help my body contain HIV infection, is to eat foods that help improve my immediate quality of life. For example, I function in a much more civilized fashion if I start my day with a cup of herbal tea rather than four cups of strong coffee. I sleep much better if I don’t eat anything several hours before bed and fart a lot less in bed if what I did eat was rice and vegetables and not several slices of kitchen sink pizza. My lover also appreciates this!!
Where should you turn for good advice on diet? This question isn’t easy to answer. During the last couple of years I’ve read dozens of books and talked to lots of people, including some who specialize in natural healing alternatives with diet as a major emphasis. The advice from various sources was often conflicting and at times overwhelming. One message frequently seen and believed to be true is that there is no single appropriate food regimen that is best for everyone.
The first step in your exploration of nutrition is to pay attention to what you are currently putting into your mouth. Keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks can be informative. It may be even down right shocking. Such a diary will give you some ideas on where to start making improvements. You can then discuss your current diet with someone who knows something about nutrition or you can start exploring and researching on your own. In order to successfully make some changes I think it’s important to take it slowly. Don’t attempt to go from being the fast food king of Denver to a strict macrobioticist over night!
Probably the best rule of thumb I’ve come across in my search for a good diet is to eat as many “alive” foods as possible! For example, a Snickers candy bar has a lot of shit in it that is pretty far removed from alive, whereas a piece of fresh fruit or a raw carrot are much more alive.
If there is a conspiracy afoot in this country that is significantly detrimental to the health of Americans it is spearheaded by the fast food industry. The only other more dominant force in American advertising is the automobile industry and actually they may be in cahoots as you need a car to get through the drive up window! The current ploy is to advertise salads but once you are in there and smell the french fries you say “fuck the lettuce!”
“Healing should be a loving human interchange, not a business transaction.” In reading these words by West Virginia physician, Patch Adams, it occurred to me that one good approach to explore in searching to improve our diets is to do it together. There are several antibody positive support groups in town that attract a lot of gay men, but participation is usually on a limited basis. You can only talk about condoms, AZT, AL721 and T-cells so long! I How about six to ten folk getting together several times a month to cook a healthful meal and exchange ideas and information each of us has stumbled on in researching good nutrition. Cooking and sharing food together is a long standing gay tradition – one that is community building and could become empowering in our struggle to deal with AIDS and ultimately take control of our lives.
I would encourage everyone who attempts to make dietary changes to go slowly and don’t worry about setbacks. I often use food to deal with anxiety and am quite certain that most ice creams contain valium. Food is often a way we reward ourselves and make ourselves feel good – you need not give up these positive reinforcements as you move toward a healthier diet. I certainly think my intentions around good food are flawless, however, I do slip … and often. The following “stress diet” (author unknown) is very representative of some days. I start out great but …..
1 slice whole wheat toast
8 oz. skim milk
4 oz. lean broiled chicken breast
1 cup steamed zucchini
1 Oreo cookie
rest of the package of Oreo cookies
1 quart of Rocky Road ice cream
1 jar of hot fudge topping
2 loaves garlic bread
large mushroom and pepperoni pizza
1 large pitcher of beer
3 Milky Way bars
1 frozen cheesecake, directly from the freezer
Be well !!!