When someone becomes HIV positive, they are infected by a particular virus. It does not mean that they are sick. The HI virus will harm your immune system (which protects your body against germs). This happens very slowly over many years. Many people don’t know they are HIV positive because they feel fine, and don’t have any symptoms and aren’t getting tested regularly for HIV in their blood. It is better to know that you have HIV as early as possible before you become sick. This will also prevent you from spreading the virus to your sexual partners.
If you have recently learnt you are HIV positive you might feel worried, confused or even scared but at least you know your status and you can start looking after yourself. Knowing your status allows you to make good decisions about your health.
All HIV-related treatment is free of charge at public hospitals and clinics.
What You Should Know
Know how HIV is affecting your body by doing a simple blood test, called a CD4 count. It will be done soon after you’ve been tested positive, and depending on the result it will be repeated every 6 months.
Slowly (over several years), as the virus attacks your immune system, your CD4 count will lower.
Your healthcare provider will start to talk to you about treatment when your CD4 count gets close to 500. If the count is lower than 500 your healthcare provider will suggest starting treatment as soon as possible. It is important that you have your CD4 count checked regularly so that you can start the right treatment at the right time for the best results.
HIV is not AIDS! If you do not get treatment you will, after a time develop AIDS, but if you have your CD4 count checked often enough and you start treatment at the right time, you may never get AIDS. You can live out a full and healthy life while being HIV+.
HIV positive people who take ARVs correctly CAN live a normal quality of life.
What Can You Do?
Eat healthy foods and get enough sleep and exercise. You don’t need a special diet or supplements; eating a balanced diet is enough to keep your body healthy, so long as you are on treatment as well.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which is bad for your liver.
You need to tell your partner that you are HIV positive, so that they can be checked for HIV too. It is important that you and your partner develop a plan to manage HIV in your relationship. You may not want to have sex for a while, which is normal. When you have sex, always use a condom and water-based lubricant to protect your partner from HIV, especially if you are the top.
Don’t be worried if you get a cold or flu, but if you feel very sick or are worried about your health at any time remember that you can consult your healthcare provider for advice.