If you are living with HIV you can live a long, happy and fulfilling life. That’s right beautiful beings, HIV treatment is better than ever. It’s important to get healthy and stay healthy, but HIV doesn’t have to change everything about your life. There are many resources available that will help you navigate your new normal, including social service providers. Just know that you are not alone, and you can — no, you will — live a long, happy, fulfilling life.
We’ve pulled together some information about how to live your best #POZLIFE with HIV below.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HIV TREATMENT
WHEN SHOULD I START TREATMENT?
Your chosen HIV treatment should begin as soon as you’re diagnosed. It’s important to get started on your treatment right away for a few major reasons. First, HIV can do serious damage to your immune system if it’s not treated. Second, starting ASAP lowers your chances of developing opportunistic infections, or infections that are more severe when your immune system is weak. And third, you want to start treatment in order to have healthy sexual relationships with others.
NOW THAT I’M A PERSON LIVING WITH HIV, WILL MY ACTIVE LIFESTYLE CHANGE?
It doesn’t have to. You just have to take care of yourself. Thanks to better treatment options and stronger support systems, people living with HIV have long, active lives. And by taking your medication and antiretroviral therapy (ART), and following your doctor’s instructions for any other medical care, you, too, can live a great, active life.
CAN OTHERS CATCH HIV FROM ME?
If you’re taking ART and you have an undetectable HIV viral load for at least six months (in other words, you’ve had a low measurement of HIV cells in your blood), you can’t pass on HIV to other people.
WHICH MEDICATIONS TREAT HIV?
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MEDICATIONS’ SIDE EFFECTS?
New HIV drugs have fewer and rarer side effects, but the side effects that are reported include stomach aches, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, tiredness, strange dreams, tingling or numb feeling, dizziness, and skin rash. If you are worried or have serious side effects, talk to your doctor about what to do.
HOW WILL I PAY FOR MY HIV MEDICATION?
Most insurance companies should cover at least some of your HIV medication costs. So if you have insurance, speak to your insurance provider to find out what medications and services are included in your plan.
If you’re uninsured, there are resources and programs available to help you pay for your medications. You can find help via Partnership for Prescription Assistance, DC AIDS Drugs Assistance Program, or the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. If you’re insured through Medicare or Medicaid, ART should be covered by your plan.
Support is available, so don’t delay treatment because you can’t afford it! Visit the CDC for even more information about paying for HIV services.
DO I HAVE TO TELL MY EMPLOYER ABOUT MY HIV STATUS?
Nope! Talking about your HIV status is a personal choice. You don’t have to tell your employer anything if you don’t want to. And although you don’t have to tell your friends, partner or loved ones, they can be a great support system. We do, however, recommend telling any sexual partners, especially if you’ve had unprotected sex with them, so they can get tested.
No matter who you decide to tell, make sure you’re prepared for the conversation.
WHAT IF I’M PREGNANT AND AM A PERSON LIVING WITH HIV?
People who get pregnant and are living with HIV are often scared that they’ll pass the virus on to their baby. But with the medications out there these days, it’s possible have a healthy pregnancy and give birth to a baby that doesn’t have the virus. If you are pregnant, many HIV therapies will actually have a positive impact on the life and health of your baby. You can do this.
ARE THERE HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS THAT SPECIALIZE IN HIV TREATMENT?
Yes. Talk with your current medical team or search this database for the nearest specialist.
ARE THERE SUPPORT GROUPS?
Yes, many! For DC residents, we recommend: