Healthy Living with HIV

Finding out that you have HIV can be very stressful. There are simple steps you can take to make living with HIV easier.

1. Know basic information about HIV.

  • You don’t have to know everything all at once! Understanding HIV helps you take control of your health and also assists you when you work with your doctor.

2. Get connected.

  • There are services for HIV in your area. Find out what these services are. If you are shy to talk to local staff directly, get their telephone number or their website information and use these to connect with them.  Connecting with other people living with HIV in your area is also a good way to learn more about dealing with HIV. 

 3. Get regular clinic follow-up.

  • A health care provider will likely recommend a regular clinic follow-up. They will ensure that you are immunized from infections that commonly infect those with low immunity.
  • When body’s protection becomes very low, a number of germs may infect the body.  They are called opportunistic infections because they come during the time when body’s defense is poor. One of the common infections is tuberculosis or TB.  Tuberculosis is a curable infection but in the presence of AIDS can be deadly.  Among people infected with TB, HIV testing may also be done to ensure that the person has no HIV which can affect their treatment of TB. 
  • TB is a leading cause of death among  HIV-positive people. It is responsible for one fourth of all HIV-related deaths.

4.      HIV Treatment

While there is no cure yet for HIV, there are medications available that help to manage or control HIV. You can live a long and healthy life with HIV!

HIV poster healthy living

  • Treatment stops the virus from making copies of itself but does not completely get rid of it from the body.
  • Your doctor will work with you to help you decide when it is best for you to start HIV treatment.  When you are first diagnosed to have HIV, you may not need to take medications right away. You doctor will assess your overall health and send you for additional blood tests that are helpful in managing HIV.
  • There are some situations (for example if you are pregnant) where your doctor will recommend starting treatment right away.
  • Medications that are used to treat HIV are called antiretroviral drugs. This is because HIV is a type of virus called a retrovirus.
  • HIV medications are a combination of different drugs that work to attack the virus in different ways. They are called highly active antiretroviral therapy (or HAART). Sometime they are called ART (antiretroviral therapy).
  • It is important to take your medication as your doctor has directed and to avoid skipping any pills.
  • Sometimes the medication can have side effects which can make them difficult to tolerate. It is important to talk to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or case worker if you experience them. They can help you manage the side effects.
  • When you are on treatment, your doctor will see you regularly and check your blood with tests to monitor your health. It is very important to attend your clinic visits and to get your blood tests done as scheduled.

 5.      If you are pregnant and have HIV

  • All women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should get tested for HIV.
  • If you are pregnant and have HIV, the doctor will recommend starting medication right away to prevent passing HIV to the baby.
  • HIV medications can have side effects to the woman and the baby. She has to be followed-up by her doctor throughout pregnancy.
  • Babies born to mothers living with HIV are also given HIV medication to prevent development of HIV infection. After birth the baby will have to be followed-up by the children’s doctor. The doctor may stop HIV treatment if the baby is determined to have no HIV.

6. Eat a healthy and balanced diet.

  • A nutritious and well balanced diet can help improve the body’s resistance against diseases.

 7. Live a healthy life.

  • Cut down or quit alcohol, smoking and street drugs. Use of these substances can lessen the efficacy of HIV treatment and weaken one’s immunity against infection. 

 8. Get enough exercise, rest and relaxation.

  • These activities improve one’s mood and also the body’s resistance against diseases.

 9.      Keep your loved ones and the people around you healthy.

Find out how HIV is transmitted so that you'll know how to avoid passing HIV on to your children, your sexual partner/s or the people you do drugs with.

 10.  Find out who needs to know about your diagnosis.

  • You may have to tell others (such as former, current and future sex partners) so that they can be aware of the risk of exposure to HIV.
  • In Canada, if you test positive for HIV you have a legal duty to disclose your status before you take part in any activity that can put another person at significant risk of HIV infection (such as unprotected sex or sharing needles).
  • The Saskatchewan Public Health Act requires that past and present partners of persons who are infected with HIV/AIDS be notified about their possible exposure to HIV.
  • Your physician and local public health department can help you communicate with those who need to know about your HIV diagnosis. This is done confidentially so that your identity and personal information is kept private.