Having HIV doesn’t and shouldn’t stop you from living a full and healthy life. With the right treatment and care, you can expect to live just as long as someone who doesn’t have HIV.
There’s a lot you can do to take care of yourself and feel fitter, healthier and happier.
If you have any questions, talk to your HIV consultant about nutrition, exercise, mental health or any of the other issues you’re facing.
You can also reach out to the HIV support and advocacy organisations listed here.
Current treatment for HIV is not a cure for the virus, but it can keep HIV under control and this keeps your immune system strong.
In the past, older HIV drugs had serious side-effects, but treatment with modern HIV drugs is much better. If a side-effect doesn’t go away and is affecting your quality of life, you should be able to change to a different drug. Once you start HIV treatment, taking it every day is important to keep yourself well.
Talk to your HIV consultant if you are having any problems taking treatment.
We should all aim to eat a balanced diet, without too much fat, sugar or salt. For many people, eating well is a pleasure, and learning how to cook and prepare food for yourself, your family, or friends can be fun.
If you are underweight – perhaps because HIV was already making you ill by the time you were diagnosed – or overweight, or if you have any particular dietary problems or side-effects that make it hard to eat well, then you might benefit from talking to a healthcare professional about your diet.
Being active is good for you in lots of ways – it can help to build your muscles, keep your bones strong, burn fat and keep your heart healthy. Some people who are living with HIV experience a loss of muscle mass and strength, so exercise can help prevent this.
You might get your exercise by taking part in a sport, or going to the gym, but everyday activities like dancing, walking or cycling to work and gardening can all help get you moving.
Taking care of yourself is not just about your physical health, but looking after your mental and emotional health too.
Finding out you have HIV can be a shock, and it may take you some time to adjust. Support from your friends and family, or other people living with HIV, can really help when you are finding things difficult.
Once you begin coming to terms with HIV, it’s a good idea to think about the rest of your life. What are your goals? What’s important to you? Maybe you want to study, have a family, travel or change career – HIV shouldn’t stop you doing any of these things!
Many of the things we do to look after ourselves are common sense. Try to get plenty of rest and sleep. If you smoke, try to stop – it isn’t always easy, but there is support available to help you. If you are concerned about your alcohol or drug use, talk to a healthcare professional for advice and support.
It’s also important to think about any other health conditions you have; particularly as we get older, we’re more likely to experience other health problems.