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If you have HIV/AIDS or you're caring for someone who does, there are many things to think about. Below are some issues to consider.
Many people have no symptoms when they first get HIV — some even have no symptoms for years. Some people may get symptoms of acute retroviral syndrome. These are signs of HIV that appear after infection but eventually go away. These signs are similar to those of other illnesses, so they can be overlooked. Symptoms include:
With a weakened immune system, people with HIV/AIDS can get opportunistic infections (OIs). These are infections that usually don't make a healthy person sick. When a woman's CD4 count drops below 200, or when an OI is present, her HIV infection has become advanced. At this point she has AIDS. Possible signs of AIDS are also listed below. There are many other symptoms for different OIs.
|Possible HIV symptoms||Possible AIDS symptoms|
There is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but treatment can slow down the disease. This way, it will take more time for HIV to progress into AIDS. But treatment can cause side effects. Some of these side effects include:
Project Inform offers more information about side effects.
Eating healthy foods and preparing them safely is especially important for someone with HIV/AIDS. A healthy diet can help you keep a healthy weight and immune system. A good diet can even help the treatment work better. If you're having problems like a sore mouth, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting, or if treatment has affected your sense of taste or your appetite, eating right might be tough. Talk to your doctor or nurse for help. He or she may recommend that you see a nutritionist.
Alcohol and drug use is common among people infected with or at risk of getting HIV infection. Using alcohol or drugs can impair judgment and lead to risky behaviors. This puts people in danger of getting or giving HIV. Even if you already have HIV, using drugs puts you at risk of being infected with other strains of HIV, or with other diseases, like hepatitis C and tuberculosis. Drug and alcohol use also can interfere with your treatment. Your treatment might not work as well, you might have worse side effects, or you might forget to take your medicine. Substance abuse also can lead to mental health problems or make them worse. Talk to your doctor if you can't stop using drugs or alcohol. Your doctor can help you find a drug or alcohol treatment plan that will work with your HIV treatment.
If you are HIV-positive, you might be focused on your HIV treatment and think less about your overall health. But thanks to treatment, many people with HIV are living long lives. This also means that as women with HIV age, they will face health problems common in all older women. These problems include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, arthritis, and some cancers. Ask your doctor what you can do to lower your risk of other health problems. Ask what preventive screenings you might need. There are many things you can do on your own to prevent diseases and other health problems. Not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, making healthy food choices, and exercising are all good steps. Keep in mind that HIV is only one aspect of your overall health.
Content last updated: July 01, 2011.