"I live a full and healthy life with HIV." Keep the Virus Under Control - Ken
8 Tips for Living Better With HIV
Healthy Habits Enhance HIV Treatment
Medications used to treat the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are very effective at controlling the virus, but you have to do your part to stay healthy, too. Following your HIV treatment regimen exactly as prescribed can help keep HIV from progressing. There are also several healthy lifestyle habits you can adopt to help boost the success of your HIV treatment. Try these eight tips to live better with HIV.
Find the Right HIV Doctor
Your primary care doctor or insurance provider may refer you to an HIV specialist. It's important that you feel at ease with the HIV doctor you choose, because he or she is a critical member of your health care team. If you aren't comfortable with one doctor, interview another. Schedule an initial appointment to meet the doctor and ask questions about board certification in infectious disease and the extent of his or her experience working with people with HIV. If you need more referrals, contact an HIV support group or ask for recommendations from people you trust who have personal experience.
Keep All Your Appointments
You'll see your primary HIV doctor regularly, as well other health care providers, such as your dentist and eye doctor. "Comprehensive HIV care includes doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and social workers," says Mark Rasnake, MD, infectious disease physician at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. You may also meet with a therapist or psychologist. It's important to keep track of and go to all your scheduled appointments to maintain your physical health and mental well-being.
Build a Support System
It's hard to manage a chronic condition on your own. Having a support group of people who are also managing HIV can be invaluable. You can share your fears and anxieties as well as successes and triumphs with an HIV counselor or support group, who understand your experience.
Your friends and family can be a strong support system as well, says Laura Guderian, MD, primary care physician at One Medical Group in New York. Just spending time with them doing things you enjoy can help you feel better inside and out.
Practice Safe Sex
Although early treatment with HIV drugs can keep your HIV viral load low and reduce the risk of passing on the infection, it's still possible to transmit HIV to a sexual partner. And if both you and your partner have HIV, it's possible for you to each pass your particular strain of HIV to the other, causing an HIV superinfection. Be sure to practice safe sex and use condoms to protect your partner and yourself, says Dr. Guderian. In addition to traditional condoms, there are female condoms and barriers designed specifically for oral sex. Condoms should also be used on sex toys if they will be shared.
Eat a Balanced Diet
A healthy diet is an important component of effective HIV treatment. Not only does it provide energy for stamina and support for a healthy immune system, but eating well can also counteract some drug side effects. "Some HIV medications can cause elevated cholesterol levels, so a healthy diet is key to minimizing this effect," says Dr. Rasnake. A proper diet is also essential for late-stage HIV infection, when malnutrition is common, he says.
Be Physically Active
You don't have to spend hours at the gym — anything that gets you up and moving can help. Take a walk, play a sport, ride your bike, or join an exercise class. Find activities you enjoy and make time to do one of them for 30 to 45 minutes on most days of the week. Physical activity increases strength and endurance, helps reach and maintain a healthy weight, and helps prevent heart disease and diabetes. It can also reduce depression, increase energy, and strengthen bones. Talk to your doctor before you begin a new exercise routine.
Maintain Good Oral Health
HIV increases your risk for advanced gum and tooth disease, says Rasnake. Getting regular dental checkups every six months and maintaining good can help prevent oral infections and other dental problems. It's important to protect your body from infection, because any infection that compromises your immune system will affect your overall health if you have HIV.
Avoid Drugs, Alcohol, and Smoking
As you work to manage HIV, avoid drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, which can undo your good work. These substances can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infection. A study in the September 2012 edition of Current HIV/AIDS Reports found that smoking not only undermines benefits of HIV treatment, but it can also increase some HIV-associated infections, bacterial pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and lung disease.
Video: 10 warning signs you may be a victim of HIV.
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