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25 Things You Need to Do if You Have HIV

June 2011

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Table of Contents


Of the many challenges faced by people living with HIV, one of the most difficult is keeping up with important information about the medical management of the virus. New information about the science and treatment of HIV infection becomes available almost daily. Staying current with it can feel overwhelming.


At The Center for AIDS, a non-profit organization that tries to prevent HIV infection from becoming HIV disease, it's our job to keep on top of new developments. In fact, that's most of what we do. We don't provide social services, counseling, or financial assistance. Instead, we pour over medical journals, Internet sites, and other sources looking for information that can keep people with HIV alive and healthy.

In early 2000, we produced the first edition of this pamphlet after asking ourselves a simple question: "If we knew only 25 things about the treatment of HIV infection, what would be the most important things for us to know?" In 2011, when we decided to update the pamphlet, we put a twist on the question:

"In the opinion of leading experts in the field, what would be the 25 most important things for us to know?" Consequently, not only is all the information presented here based on national guidelines, it was also reviewed by our panel of 27 experts. (You can find their names here: The information includes six recommendations -- numbers 1, 2, 6, 9, 12, and 15 -- that are known to save the lives of people with HIV. The other items on the list include information that is likely to increase survival time, prevent disability, or improve quality of life.

We've tried hard to make the information in this pamphlet short and easy to understand. If you have questions about anything you read here, or if you're interested in learning about something we haven't covered here, please let us know. You can call The Center for AIDS at 713.527.8219, or you can visit our website at We also have a walk-in treatment information center at 1407 Hawthorne in Houston. Stop by and see us.

Finally, I want to thank the expert consultants who gave of their time to ensure that the information in this pamphlet is accurate, timely, and vital. I also want to thank our editor Mark Mascolini, who compiled and edited the information and whose work in the field of HIV reporting is unmatched.

Until there's a cure,

Paul Simmons, BSN, RN, ACRN
Executive Director
The Center for AIDS Information & Advocacy

25 Things You Need to Do if You Have HIV

People with HIV should be active partners in their own care. Being an active partner requires an up-to-date understanding of HIV care. To help HIV-positive people understand their infection better, The Center for AIDS Information & Advocacy prepared this list of 25 things people with HIV should do promote their own health.

These suggestions for how HIV-positive people can take an active part in their health care rest mainly on three sets of US guidelines for HIV providers and people with HIV.1-3 After compiling a list of action points, we invited top HIV physician-researchers to pick the top 25 by ranking each point for importance on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 indicating least importance and 5 indicating greatest importance. The 27 respondents, listed below, also suggested how these pointers could be implemented or fine-tuned, and they suggested additional pointers, also listed below.

Many experts who responded said all these action points are important for people with HIV. To give some sense of relative importance, we averaged the 1-to-5 scores for each point and ranked them from the highest average score to the lowest. For each point we list the average score, the percentage of experts who gave that point the highest score (5), and the percentage who gave that point a 4 or 5 score.

The Center for AIDS provides a related fact sheet for people with HIV stressing additional pointers and precautions involving sex, eyes, teeth, bones, food, drink, pets, work, recreation, and travel.


  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. 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. Accessed June 20, 2011.
  3. Aberg JA, Kaplan JE, Libman H, et al; HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Primary care guidelines for the management of persons infected with human immunodeficiency virus: 2009 update by the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2009;49:651–681. Accessed May 19, 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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