Top 8 Tips on Living Well with HIV

Living with HIV not only offers physical challenges at times but emotional ones as well. While the outlook has improved enormously in the past decade, with life expectancy now equal to that of the general population, HIV can still increase the risk of illness and death if left untreated or under-treated.

With that in mind, here are 8 tips that can help optimize your health and well-being while living with and managing an HIV infection.

1
Dealing With a New Diagnosis

Human blood and chemistry samples awaiting lab testing
Human blood and chemistry samples awaiting lab testing. Getty Images/Rafe Swan/Cultura

You've tested positive...now what? Finding out you have HIV may change your life but doesn't have to control your world. Take a deep breath and start at the beginning.

An HIV-positive diagnosis simply means that you have, in fact, been infected with HIV. And while you cannot be cured of HIV you can receive treatment to ensure that the virus cannot damage your immune system and, in turn, make you vulnerable to a wide range of opportunistic infections.

An HIV-positive diagnosis does not mean you have AIDS. AIDS is simply a stage in the disease where the body's immune system has collapsed and the risk of illness is high. This most often happens when the disease is untreated, resulting in the greater risk of AIDS-defining illnesses.

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2
Conquering Depression in HIV

Man sitting at kitchen table with hands on face
Man sitting at kitchen table with hands on face. Getty Images/Aleli Dezmen/Cultura

Everyone has days when they feel a little "blue" — we all have been "down in the dumps" or felt "blah" But when these feelings last longer than a couple weeks, you may be suffering from depression. 

Depression affects over 10 million Americans each year, and it is estimated that one in four adults will have at least one depressive episode in their lifetime. In people with HIV, depression can affect more than just your state of well-being; it can affect your overall health as well as the course of your disease.

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3
Finding the Right Doctor

Doctor talking to patient
Doctor talking to patient. Getty Images/Portra Images/Taxi

How do you choose the right healthcare provider to help you manage your HIV? What is an HIV specialist? What should you inquire about at your first doctor's appointment? What are your rights as a person living with HIV?

Finding the right answers to these questions is the first step in finding (and keeping) the right HIV specialist.

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4
Learning About HIV

HIV infection, artwork
HIV infection, artwork. Getty Images/Science Photo Library/Brand X Pictures

Myths and misconceptions make it difficult for those living with HIV. Learn ten important facts about HIV, like what HIV is and how it affects your body, how to tell someone you have HIV, and how to protect your partner if you have HIV.

Knowledge is power and will only make you a better advocate for your own health. 

It's also important to understand many of the myths and misconceptions about HIV that keep thousands of people from seeking the care and treatment they need to ensure a long, healthy life.

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5
Understanding HIV Medications

Man holding HIV medication cocktail
Man holding HIV medication cocktail. Getty Images/Bruce Forster/Photographer's Choice

There are a number of antiretroviral drugs — 27 individual drug agents to be precise— to help treat your illness. Among them, Seven of are fixed dose combination drug which can reduce your daily treatment to as little as one pill per day.

Learn the basics about these medications, including their names, dosages, and side effects. This will help you be a partner with your doctor in determining the best course treatment for you.

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6
Adhering To Your HIV Medications

Man taking medicine
Man taking medicine. Getty Images/BSIP/UIG/Universal Images Group

The purpose of your HIV therapies is to lower the amount of HIV in your body and improve your immune system. But these therapies only work if you take them everyday — and this is often easier said than done.

Here are some tips and tricks to help improve your treatment adherence and ensure your drugs work better over the long term.

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7
Paying the Bills

Woman with bills and medication
Woman with bills and medication. Getty Images/Image Source

Paying for HIV care is a huge undertaking. Let's take a peek at the various services and programs that are available to help you manage the financial difficulties of living with HIV.

One program in particular, called the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, works with a person's community to provide healthcare funds to over a half a million people living with HIV each year. 

In addition, pharmaceutical co-pay and patient assistance programs are available to assist with the cost of HIV drugs, while a number of insurance strategies may help reduce the annual cost of HIV care.

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8
Staying Healthy and Get Vaccinated

Female nurse filling syringe
Female nurse filling syringe. Getty Images/Hero Images

Prevention is key to maximizing your health when living with HIV. Getting vaccinated is one way to prevent serious, sometimes life-threatening infections.

It is important to note that while some immunizations are recommended for all adults living with HIV, others are recommended only for those considered to be at high risk for certain diseases—either because of travel, age, or increased rates of infection within vulnerable populations.

Learn about what vaccines your doctor will recommend as a person living with HIV.

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