P 2 P You are not alone

P 2 P You are not alone.: It used to be that no individual whispered the Words HIV and Mental Health

It used to be that no individual whispered the Words HIV and Mental Health

Image It used to be that no individual whispered the words HIV/AIDS and mental health ever.  It’s a stigma on top of another stigma, a compound stigma.  Imagine being a gay man, a gay man with HIV and a gay man suffering from depression or worse a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder.

When I came across this article, the title pulled me in as now it’s the fourth time an individual, not a statistic in a study that is publicly mentioning mental health and HIV/AIDS.  The article “The HIV Mental Health Generation Gap by Ben Ryan” is about who’s worse off, younger or the older living with the virus.  To be more specific it’s about stress, isolation,  depression, aging, stigma, mental health and HIV.  It’s a good read citing some new studies, but for me, if I had to answer which generation is worse off, I’d have to say that both the younger and the older individuals who are dual diagnosed HIV and with a serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder equally are suffering, that both generations have it very hard.

Let me share with you;  “Research studies have shown that there is considerable overlap between HIV infection and several major mental disorders such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. It has been estimated that the prevalence of HIV among individuals with a serious mental illness (SMI) ranges from 1 percent to 24 percent (De Hert et al., 2011), much higher than the rates found among HIV-uninfected persons. Frequently, these individuals are also diagnosed with a substance use disorder (Parry, Blank, & Pithey, 2007), which can make treatment and management of HIV and mental health problems even more challenging.” (source: HIV and psychiatric comorbidities: What do we know and what can we do?”)

Reading that, living that, here are some examples as to why I feel both who are diagnosed with a serious mental illness (SMI)  and HIV have it harder. 

Adherence is very hard if you suffer bipolar disorder as you tend to forget and or get caught up in what you are doing, time fly’s by.  This is when you are are in the manic cycle.  Forget one cocktail, imagine taking two, one for your HIV and the other for your bipolar disorder, anxiety, insomnia, depression.  Taking 13 pills a day is no easy task, with food, twice a day, 12 hours a part–when you are manic adherence is something both young and old stress about. 

Social Security Disability Insurance, (personal finances)  bipolar disorder and AIDS are the only two in this topic that qualify you when filing for (SSDI).  If you are HIV and are depressed and not on (SSDI) you are working,  pending if you are a college graduate, have a good career, a partner, possible are married, you have the means and the support network and insurance through your company and if not then through the affordable care act care act which is now available. 

Take away the job, the partner, the money, the apartment and you are living in stress, fear, anxiety and isolation.   Medicare co-pays, prescription coverage, public housing that takes 1/3 of these earnings,  your monthly check looks like this, using the Federal Poverty Guidelines, for one person that’s $11,760 divided by 12 = $980 per month, subtract $326 and you are living on $654 per month, $163.50 per week, this is life on poverty.  If that doesn’t stress you out  and limit your spending so you can only eat in, constantly decline invites to eat out and see a movie, isolation  again isn’t easily achieved.  If this is example is you, you qualify for other programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid, ADAP if you aren’t on a wait list, those help you stretch your budget.

I invite you to read of my older posts.  Social inclusion is achievable, if you are on Medicare, are on both cocktails, are in therapy, able to work part-time or volunteer, you will see a change for the good on your road to over all wellness and recovery.  It’s not easy, mine has been bumpy, but I’m doing better as many of the stressors are under control., again sift through my older posts.

Here’s one post I’d like to highlight titled: “Extreme Isolation Due to Chronic Isolation and Limited Income” please look at some of the resources at the end.

I usually list helpful links, RESOURCES at the end of each blog:  I’d like to share the following in lieu of that format.

Below is my opinion on what prevention against HIV/AIDS should be today, the resources are now available, many GLBT clinics and AIDS service organization are becoming fully licensed to treat those who are living with HIV/AIDS and also a chronic mental illness 

If you have a substance abuse problem, seek help.  50% of those diagnosed with Bipolar disorder have greater risks of struggling with addiction.  read my Op-Ed  Wearing Red and Green

If you aren’t dual diagnosed, but are HIV+, talk to your provider, let him/her  know if you are experiencing depression, loss of appetite, anxiety, lack of or increased sleep, and together talk about a mental health screening. 

Lastly if you are a man having sex with men, aren’t diagnosed either HIV or experiencing any of the symptom’s above, get tested, see the results, if negative stay negative by practicing safe sex. If you find yourself having periods of lots of sex, many partners, using substances and are experiencing some or all of the above underlined, then when getting tested for HIV ask if there’s a screening Nurse available and together decide if a mental health screening is something you should consider. You were wise enough to be tested for HIV, continue making wise decisions.

My Opinion
I can’t say this happened to you, this is my journey, my story
Mental health screenings and condoms are what’s needed in my opinion when we talk about HIV prevention today.  Had I read my blog post between 1978 – 1996 and had a mental health screening, I may have been diagnosed Bipolar and or Bipolar and substance problem, which are treatable and may have not contracted the human immunodeficiency virus.
I became a consumer advocate for both mental health and HIV since 2004, would I have preferred not to be doing this yes, but life goes on and I enjoy the work I do today, I went on to grow as a person as have others and and will you.
You can transmit HIV, you can’t transmit mental illness.  HIV you need to disclose if you are having unsafe sex, mental illness no one needs to know.  If you decide to talk openly about both thank you as you are helping combat compound stigma and are now
deputized a mental health and HIV+ consumer activist.
Be safe, have fun and stay active.

If interested in having me speak at an event please visit my homepage www.bipolarbear.us and go to my contact page. Thank You.


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