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What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV Timeline

Living With HIV

It may be overwhelming to learn that you have been newly-diagnosed with HIV, but you are not alone. Although there is no cure for HIV, millions of people that are living with HIV continue to live healthy lives. It is difficult to determine how long it will take for individuals to develop symptoms associated with HIV because everyone reacts differently to the virus. There are effective treatments and lifestyle recommendations that can help keep the disease manageable and under control. When you initially learn that you have been diagnosed with HIV, it is important to adjust to the changes that may occur in your life. You may want to speak to someone you trust such as your family, friends, or seek counseling services that can help you cope with living with HIV. Close family members and friends can be a useful source of social support. Take your time and don’t feel pressured to disclose your HIV status right away to everyone. You can choose one or two people to tell the news first. You may also consider joining a local support group to talk about your experience and hear from others that are also living with HIV.

Educating yourself about HIV will help you understand how to stay healthy and how to prevent HIV from adversely affecting your health. It is important to find a doctor that specializes in HIV care that can give you expert advice on taking the necessary steps to live a healthy lifestyle. It is important that your doctor monitors your viral load and CD4 count. Do not be afraid to ask any questions you may have. Make sure you tell your doctor about any other health issues you have and any drug side affects you have experienced. You must follow your medical regimen as advised by your doctor including adhering to your medicine and lifestyle changes. It is also important to address your overall well-being including your physical, mental, social, and spiritual health.

You should discuss with your doctor about when you are ready to take medications that can help control the virus. Different treatments and medications are recommended according to your viral load and CD4 count. Your doctor may prescribe antiretroviral medicines which are powerful medicines that slow down the virus. A combination of three or more medicines called Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy or HAART may also be prescribed by your doctor. Your lifestyle and beliefs about medical treatment should be discussed, as many people living with HIV choose alternative therapies to help control the virus. Adherence to your medical plan is essential in maintaining your health.

People living with HIV may have an increased chance of developing other diseases due to a weakened immune system. These diseases are called opportunistic infections and can be caused by germs in our environment. People who are taking antiretroviral drugs or HAART may live long lives before they experience any opportunistic infections. Therefore, early detection and treatment of HIV is vital in staying healthy. You should tell your doctor immediately if you experience any changes in your health including problems breathing, loss in weight, rashes, fevers, oral health problems such as sores, dry mouth, and/ or loose teeth.

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