What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
- Am I at high risk for HIV?
- What can I do to reduce my risk of HIV?
- How can I make sure I take my medications correctly?
- What can I do to protect myself from other illnesses?
- How can prevent the spread of HIV?
- What do my test results mean?
- What do my blood counts mean?
- What vaccinations should I get?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Treatments have come a long way since the height of the AIDS epidemic. You have the best chance of living a long life if youre diagnosed early and are able to get on and stick with ART medications. People living with HIV today are able to work, have active social lives and families, and pursue fulfilling relationships. In fact, this can have a positive impact on your well-being.
While weve come a long way with treatments, unfortunately, social stigmas around HIV still persist. In addition to the feelings of fear and uncertainty a new diagnosis can bring, you may wonder how those around you will respond. If youre hesitant to get tested or get treatment, or if you just arent sure what your next steps are, you can reach out to a community organization that specializes in HIV. Remember that you are deserving of support, compassion and high-quality healthcare.
How Does An Hiv Diagnosis Change Your Outlook On Life
Accepting his HIV status has been a long process for Bisi. He’s battled with depression, self-doubt and shame over the 17 years since his diagnosis.
He says, “I have also had to deal with guilt, the fact that I am the one who got to live when many of my wonderful friends had to die. This has also caused anger and frustration. Seeing the medicines now available, even the conversation around vaccines, makes me want to scream. Imagine if my friends had access to life-saving HIV medications in the early 2000s.”
It’s been a journey for Nathaniel too, who didn’t tell his family about his HIV for 15 years, a kind of secrecy he says isn’t uncommon.
“Stigma and discrimination haven’t gone away. I’ve faced rejection from partners and now I just worry all the time about who to tell. I’m a performer, so when I went public with my diagnosis in a solo show and on TV, it was my way of ridding myself of the toxic shame I’d carried all those years. My mission is to educate and empower people to become HIV allies, as there are many misconceptions out there. For example, people still think HIV is a ‘gay’ disease, yet over 50% of people living with HIV in the UK are heterosexual. Many people also don’t know about U=U or the options to protect themselves and their partners.”
Following his struggle, Nathaniel wants to raise awareness so fewer people feel the shame he did.
Likewise, Musa’s outlook on life has changed over the years.
Can Hiv Be Cured
The first thing to come to terms with after an HIV diagnosis is that there is currently no cure for the virus. However, there are treatments that are very effective at preventing the virus from progressing and damaging your immune system.
If youre diagnosed early enough, and if youre taking your medication as prescribed, youll be able to reduce the amount of the virus in your blood until its undetectable in a test. This is known as having an undetectable viral load or being undetectable. It also means you cant pass it on during sex.
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Hiv And Smoking: What Are The Risks
Smoking is bad for anyone’s health, but some studies suggest that people with HIV are more likely to die due to smoking than other people.
Smoking makes the blood thicker, which can lead to heart disease. It can also increase the risk of cancer. People with HIV are already at higher risk of both these diseases so they should consider quitting smoking to lower these risks.
How To Avoid Getting Hiv
Abstinence, or not having sex, is the only type of protection that works every time. But if you are having sex, you can lower your risk if you:
- Use a condom every time you have sex
- Get tested for HIV and STDs
- Limit the number of people you have sex with
- Donât inject yourself with drugs
Talk to your doctor right away if you think youâve been exposed to the virus. They can help you figure out next steps.
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Can We Improve Le Further
Late HIV diagnosis remains extremely common in many countries , and has been reported to be a major risk factor for mortality . In Brazil, it was estimated that 95.5% of deaths occurring in the first year after diagnosis were attributable to late diagnosis study investigators estimated that averting late diagnosis would have reduced the AIDS mortality rate 2003 to 2006 by 39.5%, a similar reduction to that produced by cART. In the UK, earlier diagnosis would have reduced short-term mortality by 84% in MSM and by 56% in those infected heterosexually . Using the HIV Synthesis model, a stochastic computer simulation model of HIV progression, Nakagawa showed that LE from birth was 71.5 years, with 10.5 years lost to HIV infection, in a scenario in which diagnosis occurred at a late stage of HIV infection , but under a scenario of earlier diagnosis , LE from birth was 75.0 years, with only 7.0 years lost, on average, due to HIV. Thus, earlier diagnosis of HIV might go some way to improve LE further.
Have Society’s Attitudes Also Changed
While Bisi’s personal outlook has changed greatly, he believes the rest of the world has a lot of catching up to do.
He lives a very happy and healthy life, but says there’s a long way to go with the conversation around HIV.
“We can’t talk about a world without HIV and AIDS unless we discuss homophobia across the world. In Africa for example, HIV prevalence among gay men is 20% on average. However, it seems people think that the best way to deal with this is to criminalise same sex relationships. Look at places like Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, where there is a correlation between the criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people and an increase in HIV infections,” he explains.
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Hiv And Drinking: What Are The Risks
Some studies have shown that people with HIV may be more affected by alcohol than other people, especially if they are not on HIV treatment. This can be dangerous, as being drunk lowers peoples sense of risk and can make them less in control of their body.
Heavy drinking can weaken the immune system, making it harder to recover from infections.
Alcohol can also damage the liver, which the body uses to process HIV drugs. This can cause side-effects. If someone with HIV also has hepatitis a common co-infection with HIV liver damage can be even more serious.
Some antiretroviral drugs can cause blood fat increases, which drinking heavily can make worse. This can increase the risk of heart diseases.
People with HIV should try to drink within the recommended limits.
Stage : Clinical Latency
If the infection goes undiagnosed or untreated, the immune system can bring the HIV level down some, but it cant completely control or contain it the virus is still active but multiplies more slowly, often without causing any symptoms. This is also called the clinical latency stage, or chronic HIV infection, and it can last up to 15 years.
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Facts About Hiv: Life Expectancy And Long
The outlook for people living with HIV has significantly improved over the past two decades. Many people who are HIV-positive can now live much longer, healthier lives when regularly taking antiretroviral treatment.
Kaiser Permanente researchers found that the life expectancy for people living with HIV and receiving treatment increased significantly from 1996 on. Since that year, new antiretroviral drugs have been developed and added to the existing antiretroviral therapy. This has resulted in a highly effective HIV treatment regimen.
In 1996, the total life expectancy for a 20-year-old person with HIV was 39 years. In 2011, the total life expectancy bumped up to about 70 years.
The survival rate for HIV-positive people has also dramatically improved since the first days of the HIV epidemic. For example,
, a person with undetectable levels of HIV in their blood isnt able to transmit the virus to a partner during sex.
Between 2010 and 2014, the annual number of new HIV infections in the United States fell by
What Does Hiv Do To A Person
HIV infects white blood cells of your immune system called CD4 cells, or helper T cells. It destroys CD4 cells, causing your white blood cell count to drop. This leaves you with an immune system that cant fight off infections, even those that wouldnt normally make you sick.
HIV initially makes you feel sick with flu-like symptoms. Then it can hide in your body for a long time without causing noticeable symptoms. During that time, it slowly destroys your T-cells. When your T-cells get very low or you begin to get certain illnesses that people with healthy immune systems dont get, HIV has progressed to AIDS.
AIDS can cause rapid weight loss, extreme tiredness, mouth or genital ulcers, fevers, night sweats and skin discolorations. Other illnesses and cancers often happen in people living with AIDS and can cause additional symptoms.
Whats a retrovirus?
A retrovirus is a virus that works backward from the way human cells do. Human cells have instructions that send a message to make building blocks for your body .
Retroviruses have their instructions written on RNA. When a retrovirus invades your cells, it changes its RNA to look like your cells instructions . Then it cuts your cells DNA and inserts its instructions into them. Your cell then acts as though the virus instructions are its own.
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Stage : Acute Primary Infection
The early symptoms of HIV can feel like having the flu. Around one to four weeks after getting HIV, you may start to experience these flu-like symptoms. These normally dont last long . You may only get some of the symptoms and some people dont have any symptoms at all.
Symptoms can include:
- joint aches and pains
- muscle pain.
These symptoms happen because your body is reacting to the HIV virus. Cells that are infected with HIV are circulating throughout your blood system. In response, your immune system tries to attack the virus by producing HIV antibodies this process is called seroconversion. Timing varies but once you have HIV it can take your body up to a few months to go through the seroconversion process.
Having these symptoms alone does not mean you definitely have HIV. The only way to know if you have HIV is by taking a test. You should always visit your healthcare professional if youre worried about or think youve been at risk of getting HIV, even if you feel well and dont have any symptoms. They can then arrange for you to get tested.
HIV will not always show up in a test at this early stage, and you may need to test again later to confirm your result . Your healthcare professional will talk to you about the timing of your test and answer any concerns. Its important not delay speaking to a healthcare worker if you are worried about HIV.
What Do I Do If I Find Out I Have Hiv
Millions of people have HIV youre definitely not alone. Most people get at least one STD in their lifetime, and having HIV or another STD is nothing to feel ashamed of or embarrassed about. It doesnt mean youre dirty or a bad person.
Finding out that you have HIV can be really upsetting. You might feel mad, embarrassed, scared, or ashamed at first. But youll probably feel better as time goes by having a good support system and getting counseling really helps. There are medicines you can take to help you stay healthy, and lots of ways to avoid giving HIV to anyone you have sex with. The reality is, people with HIV can be in relationships, have sex, and live normal lives by taking a few precautions.
Although theres no cure for HIV, there are medicines that help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. HIV treatment called antiretroviral therapy lowers the amount of virus in your body . This does two things:
Slows down the effects of HIV in your body, which keeps you healthy.
Lowers or even stops your chances of giving HIV to sexual partners.
Some people on ART have such a small amount of virus in their body, they cant transmit HIV to their sexual partners at all.
Even if youre feeling totally fine right now, see a doctor as soon as you can so you can talk about the best ways to stay healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions hotline can help you find a doctor near you who specializes in treating HIV: 1-800-CDC-INFO .
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The Response Of Medical Professionals After Diagnosis
Bisi was fortunate with the response to his diagnosis, and was told that he could get help.
“I actually got diagnosed at an HIV conference, so the amount of inspiration around me gave me a very solid foundation to build upon the little hope I had.”
He also had friends who had been living for a long time with the virus, offering comfort, but it was still a hard thing to accept. And sadly, not every person is instantly reassured that a long life is possible with HIV.
Nathaniel was told that he had a prognosis of 37 years. The shadow of what HIV meant in the 1980s also loomed over him. A few months later, as HIV healthcare continued to develop rapidly, he was told that medication could keep him alive well into old age.
“I still felt a seriousness about starting medication, as I’d heard of people having adverse side effects. Nowadays, thankfully, people start medication right away and the side effects are less severe. All the staff at my clinic were kind and supportive, but HIV is often separated from other STIs as being more serious. It sometimes feels like people are over-protecting you,” he says.
Similarly, Musa Njoko, 49, wasn’t given hope for the future following her diagnosis in October 1994.
“I was completely perplexed and devastated. Due to my health at the time and what was available medically, or lack thereof, I was given three months to live if I was lucky. I had a 2-year-old son, who is now 28.”
How Can I Take Care Of Myself While Living With Hiv
It’s very important to take your medications as prescribed and to make sure you dont miss appointments. This is called treatment adherence.
If you miss medications, even by accident, HIV can change how it infects your cells , potentially causing your medications to stop working. If your schedule prevents you from taking medications on time or making it to appointments, talk to your healthcare provider.
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What Tests Diagnose Hiv
There are three types of HIV tests: antigen/antibody tests, antibody tests and nucleic acid tests :
Antigen tests look for markers on the surface of HIV called p24. Antibody tests look for chemicals your body makes when it reacts to those markers. HIV antigen/antibody tests look for both.
A healthcare provider will take a small sample of blood from your arm with a needle. The blood is sent to a lab and tested for p24 and antibodies to it. An antigen/antibody test is usually able to detect HIV in 18 to 45 days after exposure.
A rapid antigen/antibody test may also be done with a finger prick to draw blood. Youll need to wait at least 18 days after exposure for this type of test to be able to detect HIV. You may need to take the test up to 90 days after exposure for accurate results.
These tests look for antibodies to HIV in your blood or saliva. This can be done with a blood draw from your arm, a finger prick or with a stick that you rub on your gums to collect saliva.
An antibody test can take 23 to 90 days after exposure to detect HIV. Antibody tests done with a blood draw can detect HIV sooner than those done with saliva or blood from a finger prick.
Nucleic acid tests
NATs look for the HIV virus in your blood. A healthcare provider will take a small sample of blood from your arm with a needle. The blood then is sent to a lab and tested for HIV.
- Viral hepatitis screening.
How Do You Find An Hiv Health Care Provider
If you were tested at a health care providers office or a clinic, you can ask if they offer ongoing health care services for people with HIV, or if they can provide you a referral to a provider who does.
If you were tested someplace else and you need a provider, you can find one by using our HIV Services Locator. Just enter your ZIP code to view a list of nearby HIV medical services such as Ryan White clinics for HIV care, HIV testing, housing assistance, and substance abuse and mental health services. Here are other ways to find HIV health care providers and services.
Your first visit with a health care provider will usually include a review of your health and medical history, a physical exam, and several lab tests. Among other topics, the provider will typically explain the benefits of HIV treatment and discuss ways to reduce your risk of passing HIV to others.
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