25 Things You Need to Do if You Have HIV
4. Avoid passing your HIV to others or picking up a second HIV infection or a different sexually transmitted infection from someone else.
For your sex partner's protection -- and for your own protection -- you should use a condom whenever you have sex. Condoms are the surest way to protect your partner from getting infected with your HIV and to protect yourself from picking up a second HIV infection and from getting a different sexually transmitted infection (STI). Getting an STI can make you sick, can complicate your HIV care, and can raise the risk that you will transmit HIV. (See point 7 below.)
US HIV treatment guideline writers say "consistent and effective use of antiretroviral [anti-HIV] therapy resulting in a sustained reduction in viral load, in conjunction with consistent condom usage, safer sexual and drug use practices, and detection and treatment of STIs are essential tools for prevention of sexual and blood-borne transmission of HIV."1
US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) guidelines on HIV care include advice on using both male and female condoms.2
5. If you smoke, get help to stop. Smoking causes or contributes to several diseases that affect people with and without HIV.
Smoking causes or contributes to cancer, lung disease, heart disease, bone disease, and other conditions that pose a greater risk as you live longer with HIV. Every year, about 400,000 people in the United States die from a smoking-related disease.1
Nicotine is addictive, but you can kick the habit. Even people who have smoked for decades manage to stop. The first step in stopping is admitting that every cigarette destroys your health a little more and impairs your quality of life. While smoking is killing you, it yellows your fingers and teeth, raises the risk of cavities and gum disease, wrinkles your skin, and makes your clothes and home stink.
Talk to your HIV provider about ways to quit. Some people can quit cold turkey. Others benefit from using nicotine patches, lozenges, inhalers, or other therapies.1
6. Stopping antiretrovirals (HIV medications) without your HIV provider's advice can be dangerous. If you think an antiretroviral is causing a side effect (such as nausea or diarrhea), tell your provider as soon as possible, but don't stop taking the drug on your own.
When you stop antiretroviral therapy, your viral load goes up and CD4 count goes down. Several large studies confirm that stopping HIV medications for a prolonged period, even in a carefully controlled trial with lots of medical supervision, raises the risk of AIDS, major non-AIDS diseases, and death.1-4 With some antiretrovirals, stopping and restarting treatment on your own can allow your HIV to become resistant to those antiretrovirals and to others in the same drug group.
Sometimes your HIV provider will want to interrupt antiretroviral therapy, for example, if you have severe side effects, if you get sick with certain other diseases, or if you need surgery and can't take pills for a while. But you should never interrupt treatment on your own. US antiretroviral guideline writers say antiretroviral interruptions are not recommended except in clinical trials.5
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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