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25 Things You Need to Do if You Have HIV

June 2011

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4. Avoid passing your HIV to others or picking up a second HIV infection or a different sexually transmitted infection from someone else.

  • Average score: 4.64 (with 5 the highest and 1 the lowest)
  • Percentage voting 5: 82%
  • Percentage voting 4 or 5: 91%
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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

References

  1. Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents. Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in HIV-1-infected adults and adolescents. Department of Health and Human Services. January 10, 2011. www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/ContentFiles/AdultandAdolescentGL.pdf. Accessed June 17, 2011.
  2. US Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration. Guide for HIV/AIDS clinical care. January 2011. Pages 138-139. http://hab.hrsa.gov/deliverhivaidscare/clinicalguide11/pdf/p07-cg/CM_Jan2011.pdf. Accessed June 20, 2011.


5. If you smoke, get help to stop. Smoking causes or contributes to several diseases that affect people with and without HIV.

  • Average score: 4.57 (with 5 the highest and 1 the lowest)
  • Percentage voting 5: 65%
  • Percentage voting 4 or 5: 91%

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

Reference

  1. US Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration. Guide for HIV/AIDS clinical care. January 2011. Pages 174-181. http://hab.hrsa.gov/deliverhivaidscare/clinicalguide11/pdf/p07-cg/CM_Jan2011.pdf. Accessed June 20, 2011.


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.

  • Average score: 4.54 (with 5 the highest and 1 the lowest)
  • Percentage voting 5: 63%
  • Percentage voting 4 or 5: 96%

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

References

  1. Lawrence J, Mayers DL, Hullsiek KH, et al. Structured treatment interruption in patients with multidrug-resistant human immunodeficiency virus. N Engl J Med. 2003;349:837-846.
  2. Ghosn J, Wirden M, Ktorza N, et al. No benefit of a structured treatment interruption based on genotypic resistance in heavily pretreated HIV-infected patients. AIDS. 2005;19:1643-1647.
  3. Kousignian I, Abgrall S, Grabar S, et al. Maintaining antiretroviral therapy reduces the risk of AIDS-defining events in patients with uncontrolled viral replication and profound immunodeficiency. Clin Infect Dis. 2008;46:296-304.
  4. El-Sadr WM, Lundgren JD, Neaton JD, et al. CD4+ count-guided interruption of antiretroviral treatment. N Engl J Med. 2006;355:2283-2296.
  5. Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents. Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in HIV-1-infected adults and adolescents. Department of Health and Human Services. January 10, 2011. www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/ContentFiles/AdultandAdolescentGL.pdf. Accessed June 17, 2011.
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This article was provided by The Center for AIDS. Visit CFA's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
 
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