6 Imporant Keys To Living With HIV & AIDS

A couple on a dateIs it truly possible to live a health life with HIV/AIDS?

Yes!

Living with HIV/AIDS presents a unique set of challenges, some of which are not easily foreseen. Despite these, HIV-positive people live full and fulfilling lives with the help of medication, healthy lifestyle decisions and a strong support base.

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Here are some of the most important things that people with HIV/AIDS need to do to maximize their health:

Seek & Maintain Treatment

Quality of life for HIV-positive people has dramatically increased since the development of multi-drug treatment, called HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy). This group of medications targets HIV at different points in the infection cycle, slowing the virus’s impact on the immune system and delaying the onset of symptoms. Although these drugs have complicated regimens and many people experience a range of side effects both mild and severe, it is important to follow the treatment plan established with a physician and to not alter the course of treatment without a physician’s knowledge. It is also key to follow up with doctor visits, physicals and viral-load testing, and keep one’s physician apprised of any serious side effects of medications.

Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes As Needed

Three lifestyle choices are important for all HIV-positive people: maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding or quitting smoking and getting exercise. Generally, this is because an overall fit body will be able to fight off infections better and also is better equipped to cope with the virus itself. Maintaining a proper nutrient balance and building muscle mass through exercise can help stave off wasting, a condition of severe weight loss that can begin even before HIV progresses to AIDS. According to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), exercise can also help relieve stress, improve immune function, regulate sleep and improve appetite.

Disclose Your HIV Status To Loved Ones

Disclosing one’s HIV status is a highly personal decision. On the most basic level, it is important to tell all health-care providers that one is HIV-positive so that they can provide the best care and monitoring of HIV-related symptoms. It is also important to reach out to family and friends and build a support network of people who care about you and can understand the emotional as well as physical aspects of living with HIV.

Continue To Use Protection: For Others & Yourself

Once one is diagnosed with HIV, it is important to protect both oneself and one’s sexual partners from infection. It is an HIV-positive person’s responsibility to inform his partners of his status and both partners should insist on safe-sex practices, including barriers (condoms, female condoms, dental dams) and oral sex. In many places, it is illegal to have sex with someone without disclosing one’s HIV status. It is also important to protect yourself from other infections, as HIV makes one more susceptible to infection with other sexually transmitted diseases.

Educate Yourself & Others

People representing marginalized communities often find themselves in the role of an educator for others. For HIV-positive people, this may mean talking about the effects of HIV and its routes of transmission as well as one’s own experiences as an HIV-positive person. It may be necessary to allay other people’s fears to protect one’s own rights, as when people are concerned about sharing public facilities. However, no one should feel that she represents a whole community, and sharing information with others should always be at-will and with respect for one’s own privacy.

Seek & Give Support

HIV diagnosis and the factors relating to the chronic nature of HIV disease can bring about stress, sadness and other negative feelings. HIV InSite recommends relying on friends and family to share one’s feelings with, as well as the possibility of joining a support group of people who really understand what it’s like to live with HIV. If negative feelings persist, it may be appropriate to reach out for help from the mental-health field.

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