Living with HIV today is different than it was just a few decades ago. With modern treatments, people who are HIV-positive can expect to live full, active lives while managing the condition. If you’re newly diagnosed with HIV, you may feel like there’s a lot to learn. It may be helpful to focus on some essential facts and tips. Here are seven things to know about living with HIV.
The main treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy. Although it’s not a cure, antiretroviral therapy is very effective at slowing the progression of HIV and reducing the risk of transmission to others. The medication you take for HIV is often referred to as a treatment regimen. The typical HIV regimen involves a combination of several drugs your doctor prescribes based on your medical history and needs.
To get the full benefits of antiretroviral therapy, make sure to take the medication every day at roughly the same time. Consider setting regular reminders on your smart phone.
Side effects of most HIV medications are usually mild, like dizziness or fatigue. But in some cases they can be more severe. It’s a good idea for people on antiretroviral therapy to keep a log of any side effects, and bring the log with them to doctor’s appointments.
Certain HIV drugs can interact with other medications. They may also interact with supplements. If you decide to start taking any new vitamins or herbal remedies, make sure to tell your doctor first. Any new or unusual side effects should always be reported to your doctor right away.
In the early stages of treatment, it’s recommended that you see your doctor at least once every three to four months so they can monitor your progress. Sometimes people need to schedule visits more often depending on how they respond to treatment. After two years of showing a consistently suppressed viral load on lab tests, most people can reduce the frequency of doctor visits to twice a year.
It’s important to develop a strong relationship with your doctor so you feel comfortable talking openly with them about the condition. Sometimes people aren’t comfortable discussing certain topics, such as sexual or mental health. In order to get the best care possible, try to be open about discussing all aspects of your health with your doctor. No question is off-limits. Your doctor can give you peace of mind by sharing information and offering advice.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with HIV, you may want to know more about the long-term outlook and life expectancy. A recent study published in The Lancet HIV journal found that patients starting antiretroviral therapy after 2008 have seen a substantial improvement in life expectancy compared with patients who began treatment in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Now the average life expectancy of people living with HIV is getting closer to people from the same demographic who are HIV-negative. HIV research continues to advance. If you stick to your HIV treatment regimen, you can expect to live a full, long, and active life.
Maintaining a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine can contribute to the success of your HIV regimen. There’s no specific diet or workout routine for HIV. A good option is to follow the general dietary and physical activity guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC recommends eating a balanced diet with limited amounts of protein, dairy, and fats, and plenty of fruits, vegetables, and starchy carbohydrates.
The CDC also recommends getting at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, which could include walking, swimming, and gardening. The CDC also recommends participating in resistance training twice a week on nonconsecutive days.
Many people living with HIV have healthy sexual relationships with partners who are HIV-negative or HIV-positive. Modern HIV medications are highly effective at reducing the risk of transmitting the virus. People who follow an antiretroviral therapy regimen, and who have consistently suppressed viral loads, are unlikely to transmit the virus. For partners who are HIV-negative, taking preventive medications — known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP — can further reduce the risk.
Even if the risk is minimal, it’s important to tell sexual partners about your HIV status. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for information about strategies to help keep both you and your partner healthy.
One of the most important things to remember about living with HIV is that you’re not alone. Aside from your healthcare team and social circle, there are many in-person and online support groups. These groups can connect you with other people who understand what you’re going through. If you feel uncomfortable talking about the condition with a group, your doctor can help you find local counseling services. These will allow you to discuss your HIV treatment in a private setting.
Receiving an HIV-positive diagnosis means the start of a new journey and a change in your medical needs, but it doesn’t have to mean a dramatic change in your day-to-day life. Once you begin antiretroviral therapy and settle into your HIV treatment regimen, your daily life can be healthy and productive.
Stick to your treatment plan and communicate regularly with your doctor. By paying attention to your medical needs, you can help ensure you stay healthy for years to come.