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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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TAOFIQUE FOLARIN: Positive Outlook

Gay London Life’s Health and Wellbeing Coach Taofique Folarin offers some advice for the HIV+ community on how to stay healthy and happy

With World Aids Day approaching, I wanted to dedicate this month’s article to all of those we have lost, and to those that spoke up and fought the good fight to afford us the privileges and sexual freedoms we enjoy today. Also, to those that still stand up and hold power to account, and to everyone out there thriving with HIV today despite the stigma attached, I salute you. 

According to Public Health England, there are more than 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK. This group has higher rates of mental health problems than those seen in the general population, with HIV-related stigma often a contributory factor. To help those living with HIV to lead as fulfilling a life as anybody else, I have put together some advice on how to take care of your well-being, but it’s just as useful for anyone, regardless of HIV status.

  1. Connection – Isolating yourself from the world can lead to negative emotions, including loneliness and depression. Maintain and nurture your relationships with those you love and find joy in exploring new connections – perhaps join an LGBTQ+ sport or social group to surround yourself with new faces.
  2. Support – Remember, you’re not alone and you don’t have to do it all by yourself. There’s great support available and asking for help is a sign of strength. Therapy can be very helpful to explore difficult thoughts and feelings – it has helped me overcome many hurdles in own my life. Many HIV support organisations offer one-to-one and group peer support, and talking about your experiences and feelings with another person can be cathartic.
  3. Exercise – You don’t have to start lifting dumbbells and barbells (although I am a huge fan), but if you try to find something you enjoy, such as gardening, cycling, climbing or dancing, your body and mind will reap the benefits. Grab a gym buddy or hit up a group exercise class, which may make it more enjoyable and help you feel connected to others. Regular physical activity has countless benefits for well-being, notably helping to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and mild depression.
  4. Fun – When the going gets tough, it’s important to find some joy and have fun. Make time to do what you enjoy, invest in yourself and your hobbies, or try something completely new. I found volunteering with a charity or community group helped me connect with new people and gave me some exciting experiences.
  5. Peace – Meditation, mindfulness, and yoga are some of my favourite practices to improve my day-to-day well-being. Be curious about your inner self and spend some time exploring these tools. They each have a focus on breathing, which allows us to switch off from the noise and pay attention to our inner voice.
  6. Nutrition – Junk food may sometimes feel like the answer, but nourishing your mind and body with a healthy and balanced diet will give you the fuel you need to take on challenges. Don’t be afraid to get creative – the internet has countless recipes at our fingertips and you may find cooking yourself something healthy but delicious quite therapeutic.
  7. Sleep – Getting an adequate amount of sleep is crucial to keeping your mind and body in good working order. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day to give your body the routine it desires. if you are anything like me and find it hard to get to switch off, try to relax with a good book and log off from all social media and technology.


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