Ramadan is the name of one of the 12 lunar months of the Islamic calendar. For 29/30 days of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset. Many HIV-positive wish to join their community in observing this important month, can they?
During Ramadan, (due to start on Tuesday) Muslims practice the maximum self-control by denying their bodies every earthly pleasure during the daylight. This means that eating food and drinking (including water).
After sunset, a fasting individual may eat and drink. Many attend Mosques at night to pray and socialise. Ramadan ends when the next crescent moon is born and celebrated with Eid ul-Fitr [breaking fast feast].
Fasting is a healthy practice for people with good health; the Quran exempted some categories from fasting – the sick, pregnant, breastfeeding mothers and travellers — and the wisdom behind this waiver is to spare hardship or damage. However, in spite of the Quranic waiver to those who are sick, many Muslims insist on fasting even if they have a minor health condition, justified the rewarding experience and of course to be part of the community. Of course if you decide not to fast, the Quran says that you are obliged to feed someone who is less fortunate than you.
The question is, can someone or should someone who is HIV positive fast for Ramadan?
The best person to help you decide is your HIV doctor. To help you and your doctor make the decision, you need to take under consideration some general factors, such as: when you were diagnosed, your overall health, your viral load and T-cell count. Those in the early period of treatment should not fast, because the body is still trying to adjust to HIV and the treatment which you are having.
If you have been on treatment for some time, and your T-cell numbers are good, with undetectable viral load, and an overall good health then you might consider discussing your wish to observe Ramadan with your doctor. Explain to her/him that you cannot let any substance go down your mouth to your stomach from sunrise to sunset.
Ask your doctor if your medication regimen could be adjusted with no risk, so you can take it before the sunrise and/or after the sunset. If you are on a one pill regimen it might be easier for you to fast than if you are on a multiple pill one.
Once you get the green light from your doctor, you still need to take extra steps when fasting Ramadan.
For example, try to prepare good supplements to use on a daily basis during the month if you haven’t been doing so; in Ramadan eating less meals a day could seriously decrease your intake of important minerals and vitamins. Drink plenty of water during the night and avoid salty meals that could make you thirsty. Avoid unnecessary exposure to sun or heat to avoid dehydration. Do not overload your body with work and rest well while fasting.
Medical experts appeal to those who fast and ask them to stay from fizzy or carbonated drinks like cola, lemonade & other flavours even at Lftar (fast-breaking time). A long day of fasting causes dehydration of the kidneys. Having cold and fizzy drinks can suddenly cause the kidneys to fail. Instead, use fresh water and fresh juices.
Ramadan is a good opportunity to quit bad habits; remember that smoking is not allowed while fasting, so if you do smoke maybe this is a good time to quit.
Fasting can also have great health benefits if done the proper way. According to Mayo Clinic, “Regular fasting can decrease your low-density lipoprotein, or ‘bad,’ cholesterol. It’s also thought that fasting may improve the way your body metabolizes sugar. This can reduce your risk of gaining weight and developing diabetes, which are both risk factors for heart disease.”
Remember: the Quran forbids Muslims to commit acts that could even remotely jeopardise your health. If your doctor advised against fasting, or if you have any concern that fasting might hurt your health, then don’t fast and invest the month in doing all the other good deeds that you can do; you can delay your lunch meal to be able to join your community in the daily fast-breaking ceremony.
We wish you a joyful and happy Ramadan filled with blessings and generosity. We hope this Ramadan will enable you explore the great benefits of spirituality while fighting against HIV/AIDS or any other hardship.