Image for World First App For Those Living With HIV Shines Light On Progress

World First App For ThoseLiving With HIV Shines LightOn Progress

The launch of MyLife+, the world’s first comprehensive health and wellness phone app specifically designed for people living with HIV, has served to highlight the immense progress made both medically and socially in the field of HIV/AIDS, just ahead of World AIDS Day on the 1st of December.

Developed by ViiV Healthcare, in consultation with the HIV community, and in partnership with the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), MyLife+ helps people with HIV track their medications, blood results — including CD4 count and viral load — symptoms, and even moods.

Hoping to scope the impact the app could have on those living with HIV, SameSame spoke to two HIV+ men with very different stories to tell.

Bill Paterson, a 55 year-old nurse from Sydney working in HIV advocacy, says getting HIV was “devastating, especially being on the back of the terrible time in the epidemic where all my friends died.”

“I had some guilt about surviving,” he admits to SameSame.

“It was the low point of my life, I was smashing my head against the floor because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to die.”

“I was a nurse in HIV at the time so I knew what the dropping of my T-cells meant. I wanted to get treatment and took a toxic mix that did stop my T-cells from dropping.”

“It was one of the periods of my life where I was feeling really sorry for myself, I was sitting in the doctors surgery going through all my side effects and saying that in 20 years’ time, I’m probably going to have a heart attack and get sick because your making me take these drugs. She slammed her hand down on the desk to shut me up and leaned across her desk. She looked into my eyes and said if you are truly interested in your health and wellbeing in 20 years time – the single most effective thing you can do is stop smoking. That really put me in my place and she is quite right, if you are living with HIV you do need to take care of your health generally, especially because you are living with HIV, you need to think about the future.”

“You kind of whinge about your health today and then today isn’t the issue. it’s about 20 years’ time and there are other things you can be doing. It’s not just the job of the HIV specialist to keep you healthy and make sure you’re healthy in 20 years’ time, you need to decide to do that today, which is why this app is so important. You might want to stop eating buckets of chips and drinking and smoking so much. These are message for everyone but for those living with HIV, we do know that HIV is an inflammatory disease and we need to counter act that effect throughout our journey.”

Patterson says that he’s supporting the app because he thinks “it’s important to shift the conversation.”

“When I turned 50 I said to myself that I am now in the second half of my life, I am now totally and completely responsible for my life,” he says.

“I am not the product of what my parents produced and what people did or said to me. I am old enough and wise enough to work it all out for myself and take responsibility, and I found that incredibly empowering.”

“Now I feel complete and in my destiny without knowing how things are going to play. But probably the worst things that are going to happen to me in life have already happened, and I did not succumb, I transcended, and now it’s my responsibility to look after myself and take full responsibility for my life.”

On the other hand, Craig Burnett, a 26 year-old Scientist from Melbourne, first discovered that he was HIV positive in 2008 after donating blood for the first time (he had been celibate for over a year) and receiving a call from blood bank.”

“My whole idea of HIV at the time was that it’s a disease that you always have to see the doctor for,” he tells us.

“It was a numbers game initially, because I was quite sick. I had been infected, based on my blood results, for quite a few years. I had a low immune system and high viral load and so they put me on treatment right away.”

“When I was first diagnosed, I was pretty angry that it happened to me, and pretty upset. I felt I should know better. To get out of that, I had to realise that I’m not special, that becoming HIV positive can happen to anyone and I need to move forward. I decided to take ownership and responsibility for the life I was given, and decided to work with it rather than against it.”

Burnett admits that for a long time, treatment felt like a daily reminder of “a really bad part” of his life.

“Taking one pill every day reminded me I have HIV,” he says. “Then a friend told me that it’s not a reminder of a bad part of your life, it’s a reminder that you are taking care of yourself every day,” he says.

“I think that’s the kind of message I want to send out with this app and encouraging people to use it. We have doctors who take care us but we also need to take care of ourselves. We need good ways of doing it and this app can really help with that.”

Burnett hopes that the app will help some living with HIV to feel empowered in their ability to control and manage their own health and treatment.

“I think in the journey around understanding, you do need to take responsibility for your health,” he tells us.

“This is an evolution for some, while others naturally understand that from the beginning. I think people just need to be told that they can take care of their health, it is possible. It’s part of caring for yourself. It’s also like taking back control in a way.”

“For many people living with HIV, they really worry about passing the disease on to others, or about taking care of their own health. It’s important for people to do both.”

“I do have trouble remembering to take my medication sometimes. I used to take one pill at night before I went to bed and I would always remember to do that without fail. Then they changed my medication to taking it with food and my eating habits aren’t very good. I do find it difficult to remember to take my medication with food and if I take it without food it makes it less effective.”

“There are a lot of closeted people living with HIV. They get diagnosed, go see their doctor and they don’t tell anyone else. There are so many people who only tell their family or really close loved ones, and there are so many people living with HIV who are very isolated from the positive community. I think having an app will allow them to have connection to the community, have information and be able to take care of themselves effectively. It’s a really good thing.”

Easy-to-use and discreet, MyLife+ helps people living with HIV to stay informed by providing the most-up-to-date news and health advice. You can download the app here..

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