Living with HIV/AIDS

Jamal had night sweats, swollen glands and had been losing weight for some time. He didn't know what was wrong, but he knew he had to see a doctor to get some help. But doctors cost money – and Jamal didn't have any. His drug habit took every penny he could get. One day, when Jamal felt he couldn't go on any more, he finally went to the local clinic. 

The doctor at the clinic took a blood sample and ran some tests. The doctor told Jamal he had HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. AIDS stands for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.” The good news was that Jamal could start to get treatment. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. But today's HIV/AIDS drugs can extend the life of people who have the disease. 

HIV/AIDS is a special concern for African Americans. There are more cases of HIV/AIDS in the African American community than in any other group in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), African Americans account for almost half of all new HIV/AIDS cases reported each year. 

If you have HIV/AIDS, you must take good care of yourself. You also want to be careful to not pass on your disease to other people. The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests these rules to stay healthy and to prevent those around you from getting the disease. 

  • Do not use I.V. drugs. Doing drugs makes your immune system weaker and may make you sick faster, or help HIV turn into full-blown AIDS more quickly. If you cannot stop doing drugs, seek medical help.
  • Do not have unprotected sex. Always use a latex condom. If you have oral sex, use a dental dam. A dental dam is a sheet of plastic or latex used to protect you from sexually transmitted diseases during oral sex.
  • Don't get high on drugs or alcohol. When high, you are more likely to have unprotected sex or do other things that can be bad for your health.
  • Eat well. A good diet gives you energy, keeps you strong, helps you to maintain your weight, and helps your immune system fight off disease.
  • Get rest. Getting enough sleep and rest also helps keeps your body strong.
  • Find a doctor who treats HIV/AIDS. Then do what the doctor tells you and start the treatments when the doctor says it is time. Go for regular checkups and tests, and do not skip appointments.
  • Go for dental checkups. Do this twice a year and more often if you have problems. Tell your dentist you have HIV/AIDS.
  • Take your medicines. New combinations of medicines help keep people with HIV/AIDS healthy. If you have a problem with your medications, call your doctor right away. Do not stop taking them or change how much you take unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • Do not smoke, drink alcohol, or use any drugs not given by your doctor. Any of these things can react with your HIV/AIDS medicines and may make you ill.
  • Try not to get pregnant. HIV/AIDS can sometimes be passed to your unborn child.
  • Find a support group. HIV/AIDS is not a simple disease to live with. You will go through emotional ups and downs. Going to a support group of others with HIV/AIDS can help you work through these issues. Good mental health will help you on the road to good physical health.
  • Call your doctor at the first sign you are getting sick. Do not wait. Since HIV/AIDS weakens your immune system, you must take care not to get sick and to get treated quickly if you do. Having HIV/AIDS means that you can get sick easier and stay sick longer. Some signs of infections that can be dangerous are:
    • Trouble breathing
    • Mouth problems (white spots, sores, change in taste, dryness, trouble swallowing, or dryness)
    • Losing weight
    • Skin problems (rashes or itching)
    • Diarrhea or vomiting
    • Fever

By following these steps, you may be able to live a longer, healthier life with HIV/AIDS. So check in today with your doctor. 

Sources

Web MD eMedicineHealth   http://www.emedicinehealth.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=58830&pf=3&page=9   

Centers for Disease Control   http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/aa/resources/factsheets/pdf/aa.pdf    

Centers for Disease Control, What Is AIDS?   http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/qa/qa2.htm    

FamilyDoctor.org   http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/sexinfections/hiv/038.printerview.html   

This information is for education only. It is not medical advice. Please ask your doctor for advice about changes that may affect your health.   

Reviewed by:

Richard L. Lane MD., Managing Medical Director, KY

Lynette Cooper RN CMCN  Legal Specialist Sr