Living with HIV/AIDS

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positive attitude, healthy choices

Having HIV/AIDS can change your daily routine, lifestyle, and how you feel. With proper treatment, many people with HIV are staying healthier and living longer. A positive attitude and a strong, fighting spirit can go a long way, but there's a lot you can do to stay healthy, too.

When you're facing a serious condition, it's important to feel like you're in control of your life.

The more you learn more about HIV and AIDS, the easier it will be to take an active role in your care. You can prepare questions for your care team, weigh your options, and make choices that are right for you and your family.

Live a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle can protect your immune system and lower your risk of getting infections and other health conditions:

Man weighing vegetables Eat a healthy diet. Good nutrition can help your immune system and improve your overall health.  Eat a balanced, healthy diet to keep your immune system as strong as you can. Learn how to shop for healthy foods and prepare nutritious meals that make every bite count.

Pay attention to food safety to reduce your risk of food poisoning. People with HIV are more likely to get food-borne diseases.

Maintain a healthy weight. This can be hard, since weight loss and digestion problems are common with HIV, especially before you start taking HIV medications. Sometimes, people with HIV gain too much weight after starting on medications. Talk to your doctor or see a dietitian if you need help with your weight.

Get regular exercise. It relieves stress, lifts your mood, and helps you feel less tired. It also keeps your heart, lungs, and muscles strong and may also help your immune system work better.

Reduce your risks

You can lower your risk of getting certain health conditions and increase your chances of staying with your treatment plan by:

  • Quitting smoking. People with HIV have an increased risk of heart attacks and lung cancer. Smoking increases these risks even more. Also, smoking may make your HIV medications less effective. If you smoke, your risk of death goes up significantly even if you are taking HIV medications that are working well for you. If you need help quitting, we have resources to help.
  • Avoiding illegal drugs and limiting your use of alcohol. Using drugs, like methamphetamines or cocaine, or drinking too much alcohol, can reduce your ability to take your HIV medications properly. This may make your HIV harder to control. If you need help with stopping drugs or alcohol, talk to your doctor. We have resources to help you. 

Protect yourself and others

Practicing safer sex and not sharing items that may have blood, semen, or vaginal fluids on them can reduce your risk of passing the virus to others or being reinfected with a more harmful, medication-resistant strain of HIV or another STD.

  • Tell your sex partner or partners that you have HIV, and don't have sex with anyone unless you have told him or her that you have HIV. If you and your partner choose to have sex, always use a latex condom.
  • Don't share needles if you use IV drugs.
  • Don't share toothbrushes, razors, sex toys, or other items that may have blood, semen, or vaginal fluids on them. 

Women with HIV who aren't treated can pass the virus to their babies in the womb or through breastfeeding, but HIV infection can be prevented in babies through medication.

Manage your care

When you're not feeling well, figuring out how to get care and treatment can seem difficult. Two men hugging Learn about ways to make managing your care easier.

If you're taking medicines for HIV, stick to your treatment plan, and get the immunizations and medicine you need to prevent infections, like pneumonia.

If you haven't already done so, prepare a list of advance directives. These are instructions to your doctor and family members about the kind of care you want if you can't speak for yourself.

Get support

People with HIV often experience depression. Connecting with others can help you deal with your feelings. Ask for help from family members and friends, or join a support group. Support groups can be a good place to share information, experiences, problem-solving tips, and emotions. If you feel like you need additional help, talk to your doctor. There are many resources including counseling that can help you cope with a new diagnosis or live better with HIV. Know the symptoms of depression and where to get help.

Helping a partner with HIV

Is your partner infected with HIV? Your support can improve his or her quality of life:

  • Provide emotional support, such as listening to and encouraging your partner.
  • Take care of yourself by sharing your experiences with others in a similar situation and getting help when you need it
  • Learn how to give medicines, and know where to get help in an emergency.
  • Protect yourself and your partner against HIV and other infections by not sharing needles and by always using a condom during sex.

Additional resources

AIDSinfoKaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps.
Information on HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, and clinical trials.

CDC HIV/AIDS Information Kaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps.
General information on HIV/AIDS and referrals to local organizations, clinics, counseling and test sites, legal resources, and support groups.

Project InformKaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps.
Information, inspiration, and advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Reviewed by: Michael A. Horberg, MD, October 2018

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