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Newly Diagnosed? Things You Should Know About Living With HIV

Discovering you have contracted HIV can be shocking, and it comes with a million questions and complicated feelings. However, living with HIV does not have to deter you from living a complete and fulfilling life

Discovering you have contracted HIV can be shocking, and it comes with a million questions and complicated feelings. However, living with HIV does not have to deter you from living a complete and fulfilling life.

While it seems an uphill task not to focus on both the physical and emotional pain, these seven things about living with HIV can help you focus on the positive hence living a complete life span.

Antiretroviral Therapy

We can manage HIV by combining three or more antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that make up a treatment regimen. Current antiretroviral therapy (ART) is not a cure for  HIV infection, and instead, it highly suppresses viral replication in your body.

This gives room for your immune system to strengthen and regain the capacity to combat opportunistic infections. How the doctors prescribe the ARV drug solely depends on your medical needs and history.

The doctors advise that you start taking the ARV as soon as you are diagnosed with HIV. Delayed treatment will cause more harm to your immune system.

ARVs  Treatment Has The Following Benefits:-

  • Prevents the multiplication of HIV
  • It destroys the infection-fighting of the soldier of the body, also known as the CD4
  • It makes your viral load low or undetectable. There are effectively no risks of transmitting HIV either through sex or from mother to unborn baby

 

Inconsistently taking HIV medication causes drug resistance. The virus can change, and it will not respond to certain HIV drugs any longer. Drug resistance will limit your likelihood of a successful HIV treatment.

That said, doctors advise that you take ARV drugs consistently to prevent their resistance 

Living with HIV – ARV Side Effects

While HIV medication helps an infected person live a longer and healthier life, it is not a walk in the park.

The drugs have some common side effects that range from mild to life-threatening. Among the mild side effects are:-

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rash
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain
  • Difficulty sleeping

And the life-threatening side effects include:-

  • Hypersensitivity reaction
  • Increase in cholesterol, leading to possible risk of heart attack
  • Peripheral neuropathy (the nerves located outside the brain and the spinal cord are damaged
  • Kidney and bone damage
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Liver damage

It is essential to talk to your doctors about your medical history, allergies to medications, and other health conditions such as liver and kidney problems. This will help him prescribe the perfect combination of HIV medication.

Additionally, it is crucial to report the side effects to your doctor so they can change your treatment.

The benefits of taking HIV medication far outweigh the side effects. However, some HIV drugs have been linked to a rising risk of developing long-term side effects such as kidney and bone problems, metabolic changes, and liver and heart diseases. Longer-term risks are less common compared to short-term side effects.

After starting HIV treatment, you’ll carry out regular blood tests to check if you’re at risk of developing any long-term side effects. Moreover, point out any unusual symptoms to your doctor. 

These tests will help to identify small changes in how your body functions. Therefore, you and your doctor can choose to change your treatment or take alternative action before any serious complications arise.

Healthcare Visits

While HIV is manageable by using ARV medication, you cannot overlook visiting a health care provider. The regular visits aim to track your progress and ensure you are compatible with your treatment. 

Some people with HIV attend clinics for their medical appointments, while others visit Veterans Affairs clinics or a private hospital. All are fine. 

Besides seeing your HIV healthcare provider, you may need to see a specialist or access a skilled nurse, nutritionist, social worker, or pharmacist. It all depends on your needs and preparing a plan will make this whole easier.

Currently, HIV treatment guidelines state that most HIV-infected people visit their health care provider for lab tests every six months. Some may be required to see their provider more frequently, especially in the first two years of medication or a high HIV viral load.

Those who take their HIV medication daily as per the doctor’s prescription, and the virus is undetectable at every test for more than two years, will need to do their lab tests twice a year.

Living with HIV – Outlook And Life Expectancy

With the proper treatment and early diagnosis, HIV-positive people can live increasingly long lives, and they can expect to live as long as individuals who are HIV negative. 

Studies show that HIV-infected people have a similar life expectancy to HIV-negative ones, provided they are diagnosed early enough. In addition, good access to medical care and adherence to  HIV treatment highly contribute to a prolonged life. 

Nutrition  And Exercise 

People living with HIV commonly experience weight loss. Therefore, eating a nutritious, balanced diet is an essential factor that you should not overlook.

Consequently, people benefit primarily from diets with many vegetables, fruits, protein, dairy, and fats. 

Drinking plenty of water makes your body stay hydrated. Fluids also help the body in processing the medication.

Good nutrition and aerobic exercise such as walking improve your health and slow the progress of  HIV infection. It also maintains your energy levels besides reducing your risk of acute infection.

Relationships

Worrying that you will never have a relationship or sex, or that you won’t find someone to love you? Don’t worry. This is just a misconception.

HIV-infected people fall in love, make love, have fulfilling relationships, marry, and give birth to children without infecting them with HIV.

Starting a relationship with an HIV-negative person can raise a chain of questions. While some of these questions do not have a single, simple, straightforward answer, it is interesting that there are countless ways you can shield your partner from contracting HIV. Taking your treatment to become undetectable, using protection, and your partner using PrEP, are all ways to keep both of you healthy.

Living with HIV – Support

Take your time and process your feelings.

Get emotional support from family, community and friends, and HIV support groups, and a positive attitude will help you not get depressed. 

HIV support means essential non-antiretroviral therapy clinical services, treating HIV-related infections and non-clinical services that, when combined with antiretroviral therapy, play a significant role in minimizing ill-health rates and AIDS-related mortality rates among HIV-infected people. 

Living with HIV – Final Thoughts

Being HIV positive is not the end of a happy life. You can live a healthy, complete life if you receive proper care and support.

Medical treatment, well-balanced nutrition, enough rest, and exercise are the most significant factors to embrace to make HIV more manageable hence keeping the virus under control. 

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Samuel Njoroge

AUTHOR: Samuel Njoroge

Samuel (he/him) is a freelance writer, blogger, copywriter, and marketer. And a career spanning three years and enjoys crafting error-free content that increases subscriptions and sales. Samuel excels in mental health, self-improvement, technology, and marketing topics.