Posted by By Azoma Chikwe on
In a recent chat with Daily Sun, Nigeria’s most prominent HIV couple, Lt. Commander Nsikak and Yinka Ekpe stated that they married primarily because they are in love and not because of HIV, as against popular insinuation that they tied the nuptial knot because they are both living with the virus.
In a recent chat with Daily Sun, Nigeria’s most prominent HIV couple, Lt. Commander Nsikak and Yinka Ekpe stated that they married primarily because they are in love and not because of HIV, as against popular insinuation that they tied the nuptial knot because they are both living with the virus. The Naval officer stated further that the love and understanding between them have helped them face the challenges of living healthy with HIV.
The Ekpes share their secrets of healthy living with Daily Sun.
Secrets of healthy living
As a couple, I think first of all, we understand ourselves. We married not because of HIV, because I know that there are some HIV positive couples that married just because the only condition that brings them together is HIV. That is actually secondary. I think we understand each other as a couple and that really gives us joy. There is that internal feeling of happiness between us. If you are happy with your partner, you can work together as a team."
If you are a couple, one of the things you need to do for each other is to remind the other person to take his or her drugs. I am telling you this because compliance is not easy. Even in advanced countries, compliance with antiretroviral drugs is not an easy thing to do. But if you and your partner understand each other, you can stand as a check for each other."
Again, comparatively, when I look at myself, and I look at some other people living with HIV, who are less endowed with money, I seem to believe that lack of money is a serious problem to many people living with HIV. Poverty is really creating problem. I lived for 10 years without taking antiretroviral drugs. I was able to do that because, I have a good job, I get good salary and I am able to take care of myself, eat good food.
But many people living with HIV earn less than N2,000 monthly. I know some people who work just for N3,000 monthly. I don’t see how you expect people like that to eat balanced diet for a day not to talk of 30 days."
For my wife and I, another plus for us is that we do little exercises when the time permits because we are busy. As a matter of fact, the nature of our job takes us out most often, we do much travelling. But when we find spare time, we do light exercises.
I know there could be so many causes of drug resistance. It could be due to non-adherence from the person taking the drugs. If you do not adhere to the correct dose and timing, that could lead to drug resistance. I’ve come across people with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) that said they had to stop their antiretroviral drugs (ARV) for 30 days because they had no money. This is also a cause for non-compliance. Ordinarily, they would want to continue on their medication, but they have no money.
"There could be one reason or the other for drug resistance, but the fact remains that if one adheres strictly to the cocktail, as per the dosage, as per the timing, and the cocktail is also good for you because some people react to some of the combinations, you will have no problem. But if from the beginning you start racting to the drugs, maybe one of the combinations will be withdrawn and replaced with the other. There is always a way out, even though you may have to pay more, because the Federal Government subsidized programme does not have second line treatment."
"That means if you have problem with one of the combinations, and one of the combinations is withdrawn, you will have to buy the replacement from the market. But if the drug is good for you and you comply with it, and you also have money to eat good food, you should live a very healthy life like some of us."
"Apart from being on antiretroviral drugs, for somebody living with HIV to remain healthy, there are so many things you need to do. For example, you have to ensure you have safe sex or protected sex. If you are HIV positive and you are married, remain faithful to your partner. And even within the marriage, you should practise safe sex, to prevent exchanging viral load to each other. If you want to have a baby, you can plan with your doctor and have unprotected sex when the woman is in her ovulation, because already both of you are HIV positive. But safe sex is important between couples living with HIV to prevent exchange of viral load to each other.
I think this is the problem that most people living with HIV have. Even though they know they are HIV positive, they do not practise safe sex. And what we do in most of the support groups is to teach them this, so that they can prevent infection and re-infection. Because apart from the person acquiring another kind of HIV (there are HIV I, II and III) which the person may not have, the person may also acquire other sexually transmitted diseases, (STD) and there are many of them. If you can avoid these infections, you can manage the HIV in you, the antiretrovirals that you are taking can suppress your viral load.
Rest, smoking and drinking
Of course, rest is also important. Other positive living attitudes are there. Not smoking, not drinking. In fact, if you are HIV-positive, it is advisable you stop drinking, you stop smoking, because that will contribute to your being in good health.
Apart from eating good food, the water you drink must be absolutely pure. You must be sure of the source of your drinking water. Your water should be properly boiled, we are lucky water filter is not so expensive, you can get it between N2000 and N 3000, at most N5000. Get water filter and filter it. Even if you are too poor, you can get clean white handkerchief and filter the water. You will get pure water, not the ‘pure water’ sold in sachets, that is not pure.
Some people living with HIV suffer from typhoid, when they are treated and they get well, they expose themselves, and get typhoid again. The important thing is that you must keep yourself away permanently from sources of infection. I give people options that are cheap. I don’t tell people to buy Eva bottled water because they may not afford it, but they can boil their water, put it in containers and take it to work or wherever they are going.
Mrs. Yinka Ekpe support groups
Referrals to support groups is important, but some hospitals think they can adequately care for people living with HIV. Though some support groups are not meeting the standard of care needed. Members of support group that are not married can form a network of friends, to remind one another to take their drugs through phone calls or text messages. All these things are part of the things that will make things work, but they are not there.
State of mind
The state of mind really matters, that is one thing I am going to point out. If you are not happy, it shows on you. They don’t want to eat even if there is food. So, the state of mind is important in the life of people is living with HIV/AIDS.
And apart from that, there is nothing special about my keeping healthy, I eat well, my state of mind is good, I have someone, my husband, who cares for me.
Another thing that makes people living with HIV fall sick often is not practising safe sex, I must point it out. Because once you are on antiretrovirals and you are jumping from one bed to the other, the person will be getting many infections, going from one hospital to the other, there is no way the person will keep healthy and look good. Among people living with HIV, some practise unprotected sex with multiple partners and it affects their health.
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