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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for the Newly Diagnosed
Enrique Raul Bernadette Fortunata Heidi Greg Jack Ahmad Lucia

25 Things You Should Know if You Are HIV-Positive


Do not eat raw meat, raw fish, or raw eggs. These foods can make you sick.
Take a multivitamin and a high-potency supplement of B complex vitamins everyday.
If you've never had hepatitis A or B, ask your doctor about getting vaccinated against them.
Regular dental care is crucial. See a dentist twice a year. The first signs that your HIV infection is getting worse often appear in the mouth.
See your doctor every 3 months. This will allow your doctor to track changes in your viral load and T cell count.
It's important to avoid activation of the immune system. Treat any non-HIV illnesses you experience as soon as possible. These illnesses activate the immune system.
HIV-infected women need a pap smear every 6 months. Pap smears can detect cervical cancer.
If you're feeling fatigued ask your doctor about anemia or low hormone levels.
If you are experiencing unexpected, unwanted weight loss, consider treatment for wasting.
If you have more than 200 T cells, get a Pneumovax every 5 years. Pneumovax is a vaccine against bacterial pneumonia.
Even if you are HIV positive, your baby does not have to be. Transmission of HIV from mother to child is almost always preventable.
Seek prompt medical attention for pancreatitis, lactic acidosis, Stevens Johnson syndrome, and Ziagen hypersensitivity. HIV medications can cause these conditions. Left untreated, these conditions can be fatal.
T cell count measures the health of the immune system, and it tells you more about your health than viral load. The CD4 T cell percentage is a more stable indicator of immune health than the absolute CD4 T cell count.
Viral load usually, but not always, indicates the speed at which HIV disease will progress. Generally, the higher your viral load, the greater your risk of getting sick. If your viral load is less than 5,000, your chances of getting sick are very small.
Learn to recognize the signs of HIV- related cancers such as Kaposi's Sarcoma or non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The sooner cancer is recognized and treated, the better.
Never take a regimen of only 1 HIV medication. Most of the time it takes 3 or more medications to suppress HIV. Sometimes a pill has more than 1 medication, like Combivir or Trizivir.
An HIV regimen has two parts: the "anchor" and the "background." Use one of the following as an "anchor":

Atazanavir (+ Norvir)Lexiva (+ Norvir)
Crixivan + NorvirViramune
Invirase + NorvirViracept
 Fuzeon (injection only)

For "background," use one of the following combinations:

 Ziagen + Epivir (Epzicom)Emtriva + Viread (Truvada) 
Retrovir + Epivir (Combivir)Emtriva + Videx
Epivir + VidexEmtriva + Retrovir
Retrovir + VireadRetrovir + Videx
Emtriva + Zerit*Epivir + Zerit*
Epivir + VireadZiagen + Emtriva
*Higher incidence of fat wasting is associated with Zerit.

The following combinations are NOT recommended:

 Retrovir + ZeritZerit + Videx 
Epivir + EmtrivaZiagen + Viread
Videx + Viread 

Your doctor will help you choose based on your treatment history and your feelings about side effects and food restrictions.

Note: Other combinations of medications are possible. Talk with your doctor about what options are best for you.

If your viral load is greater than 100,000, avoid Viracept or Ziagen as the "anchor" medication in your regimen. On the other hand, if this is your first regimen and your viral load is less than 50,000, one of these drugs may be a good choice for you.
Take every dose of every medication everyday, on time. If you can't do this, stop taking all of your HIV medications. Skipping doses of your medication does more harm than good.
Do not take any medication or supplement, whether over-the-counter or by prescription, without making sure there is no interaction with your HIV medications. Some interactions can be fatal.
Eye care is important. If you experience "floaters" or any changes in vision call your doctor immediately. Some conditions, such as CMV, left untreated can cause blindness.
If your T cell count is less than 250, or if you have night sweats and fever, consider taking HIV medications. They may save your life.
If your T cell count is less than 200, take medication to prevent PCP, a pneumonia that can kill you.
If your T cell count is less than 50 cells, take medication to prevent MAC, a bacterial infection that can kill you.
Choose a doctor with experience in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. The more experience, the better. This is the most important decision you can make.

Keeping up with information about managing HIV disease can be challenging. The 25 Things list, which is compiled from The CFA's resources and knowledge, will help you stay aware and healthy.

Definitions Used in the 25 Things List Above

Ziagen hypersensitivity is a dangerous allergic reaction characterized by skin rash, fever, nausea, fatigue, and sometimes breathing problems.

CD4 T cell percentage refers to the percentage of lymphocytes that are positive for the CD4 marker. It may appear on a lab report as "% CD4 Pos Lymph." A change in the CD4 percentage of 3 or more points is significant.

CMV stands for cytomegalovirus, a herpes virus that can infect the eye and other parts of the body.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, whatever the cause. Symptoms include poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, and fever. The urine may become dark and the skin and eyes may become yellow.

Skin lesions caused by Kaposi's sarcoma appear as violet patches and are often found on the soles of the feet, roof of the mouth, or tip of the nose.

Lactic acidosis is a buildup of lactic acid in the blood, whatever the cause. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and rapid breathing.

MAC stands for Mycobacterium avium complex, which is also known as MAI, or Mycobacterium intracellulare. This is the most common bacterial opportunistic infection associated with HIV.

Symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma include enlarged nodes, loss of appetite, trouble breathing, weight loss, dark patches on the skin, fever and night sweats.

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, whatever the cause. Symptoms include severe pain in the upper mid-abdomen and fever.

PCP stands for Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, the most common AIDS-associated type of pneumonia.

Stevens Johnson syndrome is a severe rash affecting the mucuous membranes, including the lining of the mouth or the vagina.

This article was provided by The Center for AIDS Information & Advocacy. Visit CFA's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
See Also
More on HIV Medications
More on HIV Treatment


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