How To Stay Healthy Even If You Have Hiv
When you are tested positive for HIV, it can stir up a lot of emotions and questions. It sometimes feels that you are going crazy and hopeless. But it is important to note that HIV can be managed with the use of HIV medicines. Apart from the medications, here are some of the ways that can help you stay healthy even with your current condition.
Why Not To Take A Treatment Break: The Smart Study
The SMART study recruited people taking HIV treatment with a CD4 cell count above 350. Participants were divided into two groups: the first group continued to take HIV treatment as normal, the other group stopped treatment, restarting when their CD4 cell count fell to around 250 , and then stopping again when their CD4 cell count once again reached 350. Among other things, the researchers wanted to see if people taking treatment breaks remained well, and how many avoided the side-effects of anti-HIV drugs.
However, in January 2006 the study was stopped early because 4% of people who interrupted their HIV treatment became ill compared to only 2% of people who took their HIV drugs all the time. The researchers found that people taking treatment breaks were more than twice as likely to become ill or die than people taking continuous HIV treatment.
As well as an increased risk of HIV disease progression, people taking treatment breaks also had an increased risk of other illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, and kidney or liver disease. This was a surprise, as these conditions can be side-effects of HIV treatment and the studys researchers had expected to see more of these illnesses in people taking HIV treatment all the time.
The researchers also found that people who took treatment breaks had a lower quality of life.
If You Dont Have A Doctor
Public health units and other organizations may provide free or low-cost, confidential testing and counselling about HIV and high-risk behaviour.
If you dont have a doctor, contact one of the following for information on HIV testing in your area:
- Your local health unit
- CATIE: 1-800-263-1638 or online at www.catie.ca
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Sudden Unexplained Weight Loss
National Human Genome Research Institute
Weight loss is common in people living with HIV during the advanced stages of the disease.
The condition is also called HIV wasting syndrome. It’s not as common today as it once was because antiretroviral drugs keep the virus suppressed and allow the immune system to rebuild itself. Wasting is mainly seen in people who have not been treated for HIV.
The exact cause of HIV wasting is unknown, but it is thought that the constant inflammation caused by HIV makes the body burn energy faster and reduces testosterone levels .
Side Effects And Costs
Side effects of antiretroviral therapy vary and may include nausea, headache, and dizziness. These symptoms are often temporary and disappear with time.
Serious side effects can include swelling of the mouth and tongue and liver or kidney damage. If side effects are severe, the medications can be adjusted.
Costs for antiretroviral therapy vary according to geographic location and type of insurance coverage. Some pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs to help lower the cost.
To develop AIDS, a person has to have contracted HIV. But having HIV doesnt necessarily mean that someone will develop AIDS.
Cases of HIV progress through three stages:
- stage 1:acute stage, the first few weeks after transmission
- stage 2: clinical latency, or chronic stage
As HIV lowers the CD4 cell count, the immune system weakens. A typical adults CD4 count is 500 to 1,500 per cubic millimeter. A person with a count below 200 is considered to have AIDS.
How quickly a case of HIV progresses through the chronic stage varies significantly from person to person. Without treatment, it can last up to a decade before advancing to AIDS. With treatment, it can last indefinitely.
Theres currently no cure for HIV, but it can be managed. People with HIV often have a near-normal lifespan with early treatment with antiretroviral therapy.
Also, treatment can typically help manage opportunistic infections.
HIV and AIDS are related, but theyre not the same thing.
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Hiv Symptoms In Men: Is There A Difference
Symptoms of HIV vary from person to person, but theyre similar in men and women. These symptoms can come and go or get progressively worse.
If a person has been exposed to HIV, they may also have been exposed to other sexually transmitted infections . These include:
While not related to HIV symptoms, another risk for women with HIV is that the virus can be transmitted to a baby during pregnancy. However, antiretroviral therapy is considered safe during pregnancy.
Women who are treated with antiretroviral therapy are at very low risk for transmitting HIV to their baby during pregnancy and delivery. Breastfeeding is also affected in women with HIV. The virus can be transferred to a baby through breast milk.
In the United States and other settings where formula is accessible and safe, its recommended that women with HIV not breastfeed their babies. For these women, use of formula is encouraged.
Options besides formula include pasteurized banked human milk.
For women who may have been exposed to HIV, its important to know what symptoms to look for.
AIDS refers to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. With this condition, the immune system is weakened due to HIV thats typically gone untreated for many years.
If HIV is found and treated early with antiretroviral therapy, a person will usually not develop AIDS.
Symptoms of AIDS can include:
- recurrent fever
HIV does NOT transfer through:
How Do You Know If The Drugs Are Working
After youâve started taking drugs for HIV, your provider will look at how much HIV virus is in your bloodstream to see how well the drug therapy is working. If the drugs are working, your viral load goes down. You will have less of the virus in your bloodstream. A very important goal of treatment is to reduce the viral load to below the level that can be counted by laboratory tests, and to keep it there. This sometimes is called an âundetectableâ level of HIV.
Other ways you and your provider can see if the drugs are working are:
- Your CD4 count. This number should stay the same or go up if your drugs are working.
- Your health checkups. Your treatment should help keep you healthy and help you fight off infections and diseases.
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Newly Diagnosed With Hiv
What does an HIV diagnosis mean?
- If you receive an HIV diagnosis, it means that you have HIV.
- Unlike some other viruses, the human body cant get rid of HIV completely. Once you have HIV, you have it for life.
- But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People with HIV who get effective HIV treatment can live long, healthy lives and protect their partners.
What should I do if I just got diagnosed with HIV?
Im Pregnant Will My Baby Have Hiv
If you just found out you are pregnant, see your doctor right away. Find out what you can do to take care of yourself and to give your baby a healthy start to life.
With your doctors help, you can decide on the best treatment for you and your baby before, during, and after the pregnancy. You should also before and during your pregnancy to help you and your baby stay healthy.
Just because you have HIV doesnt mean your child will get HIV. In the United States, before effective treatment was available, about 25% of pregnant mothers with HIV passed the virus to their babies. Today, if you take HIV treatment and have an undetectable viral load, your risk of passing HIV to your baby is less than 1%.
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Starting Hiv Medication While Youre In Full
When starting HIV treatment, talk to your doctor and make sure you understand how and when you should be taking your medication, whether it should be taken with food and where to store it.
One important thing to consider is how youll deal with side effects like dizziness or feeling tired, especially if your medication kicks in while youre at work.
This can be especially dangerous if you drive for work, do shift work, take care of others or operate machinery. It can also put you in an uncomfortable position if your co-workers dont know about your HIV status.
Ask your doctor if the treatment prescribed to you is likely to cause side effects. Just to be safe, take a few days off work as you begin your treatment. If your employer knows about your HIV status, they will be obliged to help adjust your work to treatment.
Accept Your New Normal
Living with HIV marks a new phase of your life. But if you take your HIV medicines as prescribed, it can be as healthy, active, and fulfilling as before. Make it a priority to take care of your body and mind. Get help if you feel depressed, and stay connected to people in your life you love and who support you.
CDC: “Basic Statistics,” “A Glance at the HIV/AIDS Epidemic,” âAct Against AIDS: Conversation Starters,â âHIV/AIDS: Telling Others,â âBreastfeeding: Human Immunodeficiency Virus ,â âAIDS and Opportunistic Infections.â
University of California, San Francisco HIVInsite: “I just tested positive — now what?”
AIDS InfoNet: “Safer Sex Guidelines.”
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “HIV Infection and AIDS: An Overview.”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: âJust Diagnosed: Next Steps After Testing Positive for HIV,â âHow to Find HIV Treatment Services,â âHIV/AIDS: The Basics,â âHIV and Mental Health,â âState HIV/AIDS Hotlines.â
HIV.gov: âTalking About Your HIV Status: Should You Tell Other People About Your Positive Test Results?â âPreventing Sexual Transmission of HIV.â
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: âHIV/AIDS: Protect Others,â âFind Support,â âBe Aware of Possible Complications.â
Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange : âYour Guide to HIV Treatment: Monitoring Your Health.â
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What Are The Symptoms Of Hiv Infection
Most people have no symptoms or just a mild flu-like illness when they are first infected, and it may be difficult to tell the HIV apart from other viral infections. This illness, called seroconversion illness, often occurs around 10 to 14 days after infection.
Seroconversion illness can have a range of symptoms, including:
- swollen lymph glands in the neck, underarm or groin areas
After the initial illness, people with HIV infection usually have no other symptoms. However, the virus remains in the body.
Should Women With Hiv Take Hiv Medicines During Pregnancy
Yes. All pregnant women with HIV should take HIV medicines throughout pregnancy for their own health and to prevent perinatal transmission of HIV. Perinatal transmission of HIV is also called mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
HIV medicines, when taken as prescribed, prevent HIV from multiplying and reduce the amount of HIV in the body . An undetectable viral load is when the level of HIV in the blood is too low to be detected by a viral load test. The risk of perinatal transmission of HIV during pregnancy and childbirth is lowest when a woman with HIV has an undetectable viral load. Maintaining an undetectable viral load also helps keep the mother-to-be healthy.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Is there any sure way to avoid acquiring HIV?
- What is the best treatment for me?
- How can I avoid getting any infections that will make me very sick?
- How can I find support groups in my community?
- What diagnostic tests will you run?
- How often will I need to see my doctor?
- Will there be any side effects to my treatment?
- How does this affect my plans for having a family?
- Is it safe for me to breastfeed my baby?
- Will using a condom keep my sex partners from acquiring HIV?
- Should I follow a special diet?
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If Youre Feeling Depressed
Its normal to feel as though youre not coping at times, to stop enjoying being with friends and family, or to feel sad or have trouble sleeping.
But if these feelings last a long time or you continue to feel overwhelmed by them, you may have depression.
Get help as soon as possible as you may need treatment.
Your HIV clinic, local mental health services or GP can all help you.
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How Hiv Is Transmitted
HIV is not passed on easily from one person to another. The virus does not spread through the air like cold and flu viruses.
HIV lives in the blood and in some body fluids. To get HIV, 1 of these fluids from someone with HIV has to get into your blood.
The body fluids that contain enough HIV to infect someone are:
- vaginal fluids, including menstrual blood
- contact with animals or insects like mosquitoes
What Its Like To Live With Hiv
Having lived with HIV his whole life, Nathan has seen a lot of changes in how HIV is treated medically and seen by the broader community. Growing up in the 1990s, Nathan says that other kids were pretty accepting when it came to him having HIV.
I did a full sort of disclosure in preschool, he says. So that way I came out about being HIV positive straight away. We got a lot of support which was fantastic. I experienced a little bit of stigma, but not necessarily from kids. Most kids didn’t care, but there were a couple of families who acted differently. Like the parents were a bit more cautious or hesitant about things and that was reflected in some of their actions. It was the 90s, and most people were thinking back to the Grim Reaper campaigns.
As he got older, Nathan had to consider his HIV in different ways. Learning about relationships and sex are a normal part of adolescence and young adulthood, but for Nathan, he also had to learn to talk about having HIV in a new way.
At the time, the rule was that I had to disclose that I had HIV to anyone and everyone I wanted to engage in sex, be it protected or unprotected. Just trying to navigate sex as a teenager to begin with is difficult and scary and nerve racking. That was a tricky sort of situation to navigate and it definitely made things a lot more stressful.
But for Nathan, most people close to him didnt seem to care about his HIV.
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Questions To Ask About Each Drug
One of the most important things you can do to make sure you take your medicine correctly is to talk with your medical provider about your lifestyle, such as your sleeping and eating schedule. If your provider prescribes a drug, be sure and ask the following questions :
- What dose of the drug should be taken? How many pills does this mean?
- How often should the drug be taken?
- Does it matter if it is taken with food, or on an empty stomach?
- Does the drug have to be kept in a refrigerator?
- What are the possible side effects of the drug?
- What should be done to deal with the side effects?
- How severe do side effects have to be before a provider is called?
During every medical visit you should talk about whether you are having trouble staying on your treatment plan. Studies show that people who take their medicine in the right way get the best results: their viral loads stay down, their CD4 counts stay up, and they feel healthier.
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Stage : Acute Hiv Infection
Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, about two-thirds of people will have a flu-like illness. This is the bodys natural response to HIV infection.
Flu-like symptoms can include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. But some people do not have any symptoms at all during this early stage of HIV.
Dont assume you have HIV just because you have any of these symptomsthey can be similar to those caused by other illnesses. But if you think you may have been exposed to HIV, get an HIV test.
Heres what to do:
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Whats The Difference Between Hiv And Aids
The difference between HIV and AIDS is that HIV is a virus that weakens your immune system. AIDS is a condition that can happen as a result of an HIV infection when your immune system is severely weakened.
You cant get AIDS if you arent infected with HIV. Thanks to treatment that slows down the effects of the virus, not everyone with HIV progresses to AIDS. But without treatment, almost all people living with HIV will advance to AIDS.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hiv
No two people with HIV will have the same symptoms, and some may not have any at all. But the infection can cause some common changes over time.
In the first few weeks: These first, flu-like symptoms happen because your body is reacting to HIV. Your immune system is trying to fight it off. The symptoms at this stage can include:
- Aches and pains in muscles and joints
Keep in mind that even if you have these symptoms, that doesnât automatically mean you are HIV-positive. Many different illnesses can cause these problems. Talk to a doctor or an HIV testing facility if you think you might be infected.
At this early stage of HIV infection, itâs important to know that you may not get accurate results from an HIV test. It can take 3-12 weeks for enough signs of the virus to show up on routine tests for the infection, which measure antibodies against HIV. A new kind of screening, called a nucleic acid test, can detect the virus itself during this early stage, but itâs expensive and not usually used for routine HIV testing.
Let the testing site or your doctor know if you think you might be recently infected. Also, be sure to use a condom every time you have sex, and take other steps to prevent spreading the virus.
After years with untreated HIV, youâre likely to get infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi that your body is no longer strong enough to fight off. They can be a sign that your infection has gone from HIV to AIDS. You might have:
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