HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, is an infection that attacks the human being's defense system. When the infection gets into the body, it slowly destroys the immune system, leaving the body weak to various infections. As the virus continues to stay in the body, it develops from one stage to another.
The virus makes copies of itself by destroying the CD4 cells in the immune system. During the first stages, there are flu-like symptoms. As the virus develops to the last stage--AIDS--the CD4 count reduces drastically, leaving the body vulnerable to opportunistic infections such as chronic chest infections and skin diseases.
Nonetheless, a person infected with HIV can still live a fulfilling life for many decades provided that they follow the right precautions. Many people die early as a result of lack of knowledge on living with HIV. The following are tips for living well despite having HIV.
5 Tips on Living with HIV
This is a major step that a person with HIV should follow to live long. The infection does not have any cure. When HIV was first discovered in humans back in the 1980s, it claimed the lives of many people, especially in Africa.
Scientists have come up with a treatment plan by manufacturing a special type of drug that slows down the progression of the virus and reduces the symptoms of the infection. They are called antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).The process of taking these drugs is called antiretroviral therapy (ART).
If you are in the first stage of HIV, the ARV drugs prevent the virus from progressing to AIDS. This helps you live long despite the virus. ARVs help a body infected with HIV by:
- Slowing down the progression of the virus
- Lowering viral load
- Strengthening the immune system
- Improving the body's health
It is very important for a patient to follow the doctor’s instructions stringently and take HIV medications just as instructed. If you skip any of your HIV medications even for just a single day, you give the virus a chance to mutate and become resistant to the drugs. You should therefore make sure that you take your medications daily and as prescribed, and when you are away from home, make sure that you don’t miss your dose.
2. A Good Diet
People suffering from HIV become weak over time. Regardless of the drugs being taken, the body immune system cannot really function normally. Opportunistic infections that attack the body also make an HIV-infected person weak, as it takes more out of the body to fight off these infections.
The body lacks enough nutrients since it requires more of them to fight infections. People living with HIV also lose weight, and should therefore make a conscious effort to stick to a balanced diet to live longer. The diet should include:
- Vitamins to boost the immune system such as calcium and selenium. These nutrients also strengthen the body. Find good sources of these that you enjoy and incorporate them into your regular diet.
- High amounts of protein--ensure this by eating food such as beans, fish, egg, and lean meat.
- Low amounts of fats and sugars
- Dairy products like cheese, milk, and yoghurt.
3. Prevent Other Illnesses
When your body has the HIV virus, it is not able to fight infections due to your weakened immune system. This makes the body weaker once it suffers any infection. To live healthily with HIV, you should try and prevent as many illnesses as possible. Since your body is susceptible to bacteria, fungi, and viruses, you should avoid them by washing your hands regularly. You should quarantine yourself from sick individuals and also make sure that you are up-to-date with your vaccinations.
When living with HIV, you should also make sure that you are free from other sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STD or STIs). If you have another STD together with HIV, you are likely to transmit the infection to other people. STDs also can worsen your HIV status and allow the virus thrive and progress more rapidly. HIV can also make STDs very difficult to treat and manage. It is therefore advisable to have yourself tested for these infections more often if there has been a chance of getting them, since many of them do not cause symptoms. If you have any of the STDs, you should get treated immediately.
4. Exercise the Body and Mind
People living with HIV become weak over time. They lose a lot of energy. Their muscles and bones weaken. To help you gain strength and help the body utilize nutrients and drugs, victims are advised to do regular and mental exercises. Physical exercises may include walking, running, swimming, dancing, or any other physical activity you like. Physical exercises will help you stay physically fit and also keep away depression and stress. Mental exercise involves activities that engage and stimulate your mind such as doing daily crosswords or puzzles, or playing video games that challenge your mind. Mental exercise will help you boost your cognitive health by exercising your memory, concentration, and attention, which are most affected by HIV and its medications.
5. Avoid the Use and Abuse of Drugs
People living with HIV should avoid taking alcohol and other drugs. Overuse of alcohol or other drugs may cause feelings of stress or depression. If you have HIV, you should totally avoid the use of dangerous illegal drugs and only take drugs that are prescribed by your doctor to help boost your immune power. Quitting alcohol can also prevent you from experiencing cognitive problems such as poor reasoning and weak thinking. Avoiding cognitive impairment can help HIV patients avoid HIV-related delirium and dementia. Another drug worth quitting is tobacco. According to current scientific research, giving up smoking cigarettes will help HIV patients live better and healthier lives. Quitting smoking can also prevent serious health events such as stroke and heart attack which are common to smokers.
The Bottom Line
The above tips for living a healthy life with HIV are all within the patient’s control, and all of them will help boost your immunity and increase your life expectancy. By taking the advice above to heart and doing them, you treat your beleaguered body well, and give it more of the strength it needs to defend your body against illnesses that threaten its well-being.