25 Things You Need to Do if You Have HIV
1. If you have HIV, start care as soon as possible with a health care provider or medical group that has HIV experience.
Just as you would go to a cancer specialist if you have cancer, you should go to an HIV specialist if you have HIV infection. Both are complicated diseases best cared for by someone with training in the field and with ongoing experience caring for many people with the disease.
Several studies show that HIV-positive people who see an HIV specialist do better than those who see other providers.1-3 US HIV treatment experts recommend seeking care from an HIV specialist.4 If you don't already have an HIV provider, you can find candidates through counselors at the facility where you tested positive for HIV, through community groups that help people with HIV and AIDS, or through your primary care provider.
Don't delay starting care after your HIV diagnosis. Even if you don't feel sick, your HIV infection gets worse and more dangerous if you don't start care.
Tell current and former sex partners and needle-sharing partners that you have HIV and suggest that they get tested. Tell your provider who else knows about your HIV in your family or among friends. If you have not told anyone you have HIV, discuss this with your provider.
2. With your HIV provider's help, decide when to start therapy with antiretrovirals (HIV medications).
HIV treatment experts in the United States recommend that the following groups of HIV-positive people should start therapy with antiretrovirals (HIV medications): (1) anyone with a CD4 count under 500, (2) anyone with an AIDS disease, (3) anyone with HIV-associated kidney disease, (4) anyone with hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection that needs treatment, and (5) all pregnant women regardless of CD4 count, to avoid passing HIV to the fetus or newborn.1 Half of this expert panel believes everyone with HIV infection should start antiretroviral therapy, regardless of CD4 count.
3. A primary goal of antiretroviral therapy is to make your viral load undetectable, regardless of how many combinations of antiretrovirals (HIV medications) you have taken.
US experts on HIV infection stress that the goal of any antiretroviral combination -- first, second, third, or later -- is make the viral load undetectable on a standard viral load test (generally, below 50 copies).1 That goal holds true even for people who have taken several antiretroviral combinations and have HIV resistant to many antiretrovirals.
A detectable viral load means your antiretrovirals are not controlling HIV completely. When this happens, the virus can become resistant to the antiretrovirals you're taking and to others in the same antiretroviral family. When your viral load becomes detectable, your CD4 may fall and you will have a higher chance of getting an AIDS disease.
This article was provided by The Center for AIDS Information & Advocacy. Visit CFA's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
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