Being diagnosed with HIV is life-changing. But the condition is far more manageable now than when it first appeared decades ago. Thanks to advancements in medicine, you can now live a long and even healthy life with HIV. Here’s more about how.
Testing Positive: What It Means for You
An HIV diagnosis can come with many emotions, from sadness to anger and even hopelessness. It can also be shocking, even though the disease can be a threat to anyone, particularly if you participate in unprotected sex. If you test positive, take time to process the news, and then reach out for support. Social service providers and other professional care teams can help you learn more about what a positive test means.
It’s important to remember that although you’ve tested positive for HIV, it does not mean you have AIDS, which is the last stage of HIV infection. HIV attacks the cells that fight infections, making you more vulnerable to other illnesses. AIDS is diagnosed when your blood cell count reaches a certain level, or you contract another serious infection. Fortunately, most people can avoid AIDS by taking medication.
Understanding HIV Care
Starting HIV treatment as soon as possible can reduce the damage the disease causes and reduce your viral load to an undetectable level (also known as viral suppression). While HIV is chronic — meaning it can never be completely cured — reaching an undetectable level means you have so little virus (fewer than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood) that even a lab test can’t pick up on it.
To begin treatment, your provider will prescribe antiretroviral therapy (ART) to help your immune system fight the disease. In some cases, treatment can begin as early as the day of diagnosis. Most commonly, ART comes in pill form, with single pills and combination medicines available. Your doctor will review treatment options with you to determine the best option for your lifestyle.
Once HIV medication has helped you reach a state of viral suppression for at least three months, you may be eligible for long-acting shots. These will require a visit to the doctor’s office once a month or once every two months, depending on your treatment regimen.
Healthy Living with HIV
Living a healthy life with HIV involves many of the same strategies as anyone who wants to maintain wellness: caring for your physical, mental, and emotional health by eating well, staying active, and prioritizing self-care.
One important difference in your routine will be taking steps to prevent the spread of HIV. Your relationships and sex life are still important parts of your overall well-being, so safe sex practices will be key to preventing HIV transmission. Be honest with your partner about your diagnosis, and use a condom any time you engage in vaginal and/or anal sex. You may also want to encourage your partner(s) to talk to their doctor about taking PrEP, an HIV prevention medication that can drastically reduce the risk of transmission.
YourTown Health is committed to providing compassionate, quality care for HIV and preventing its spread. Through our HIV Prevention and Treatment Program, you could receive HIV/AIDS treatment at a reduced cost. Find out more by contacting us online, or call us directly at 770-463-4644.