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hiv & staying well

 

STAYING WELL

The field of HIV in general is rapidly changing, and you should not to rely on this information alone. People who are HIV-positive can do much to help themselves to stay well and continue a normal lifestyle by not only developing a positive mental approach to their condition, but also by taking care of their physical health. A person who is HIV-positive should always report early to the doctor who looks after their HIV/AIDS condition, if they notice any kind of change or deterioration in their physical condition or believe that they are getting an infection.

Rest

Fatigue is a common symptom of HIV infection and symptoms may vary greatly. Rest is important and the person may need to alter their lifestyle if, for example, they are used to staying out late at night etc.

Exercise

Exercise is important and should be taken regularly but without causing undue tiredness. If the person is not used to it, they should begin slowly. Advice on exercise may be available from the physiotherapy department at your local hospital. check with your health care clinic. You should always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise regime.

Stress

Stress is a natural and essential part of our daily lives. It motivates us and gets the adrenalin going. However, excessive stress is counter-productive and in itself can be immuno-suppresive. It can manifest itself in many physical ways such as in palpitations, weight gain or loss, blurring or dulling of vision or difficulty in sleeping etc. many of which could be mistaken as being HIV-related. It is particularly important for someone who is HIV-positive to try to identify any areas of excessive stress and to seek to remove or reduce them. Various complementary therapies are available which may help, or it may be necessary to consult your GP/doctor.

Diet

Diet and nutrition are of paramount importance and should be balanced, with a reasonable fibre and calorie content, eg: Carbohydrates in the form of potatoes and rice. Protein in the form of beans, cheese and meat. Fibre in the form of vegetables and fruit. There is not usually any need for any 'special' diet, but care should always be taken in the preparation of food, particularly in ensuring that meat is properly cooked. Advice on working towards a healthier diet may be available from your health care clinic.

Vitamins & Minerals

Some HIV infections simulate vitamin and mineral deficiency, eg; Zinc and Vitamin C. If your diet is not good, vitamin and mineral substitutes can be taken in moderation. However, it is advisable to seek advice from your GP/Doctor when considering taking certain vitamins.

Water

It is recommended that people who have a compromised immune system should drink water that has been boiled, as water companies cannot guarantee that water is free from Cryptosporidium, this also includes commercially available bottled water. Ask a GP/doctor for advice.

KPS has a Water Filter Scheme available click here for details.

Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs

Alcohol, in moderation, does not appear to have any adverse effect. A common infection related to AIDS is - Pneumocystis which smoking could irritate. There is no evidence to suggest that recreational drugs, such as the smoking of cannabis have any detrimental effect if taken in moderation (KPS must point out that cannabis is classified as an illegal substance). However, any person who is HIV-positive should be cautious of taking any substance which may hinder or suppress their immune system as it is well documented that people on certain Combination Therapy drugs have additional problems if they are taking recreational drugs. It is advised to consult your GP/Doctor regarding this.

Sex

People who are HIV infected or who have AIDS can still enjoy sexual relationships. However, it is advised that if they are have sex with other HIV partners/people it is recommended that ‘Safer Sex' is practiced due to increased viral infection, other sexually transmitted diseases and drug resistance factors that could compromise their condition further.

Vaccinations & Travelling Abroad

People who are HIV-positive are strongly advised NOT to have live vaccinations such as those for Polio or Yellow Fever. Flu vaccines are safe. If travelling, people should specify NO LIVE VACCINES. Some countries have also imposed travelling restrictions on people who are HIV-positive and these should be checked before booking a journey. You can view details regarding HIV and travel by clicking here.

HIV & RELATED CONDITIONS

The clinical diagnosis of AIDS is very specific. For medical purposes there must be the presence of life-threatening infections or cancers together with the simultaneous suppression of the body's immune system. There must also be the absence of other known illnesses which could cause and explain the immune deficiency. Although as yet there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, many of the illnesses which result from a depressed immune system are becoming increasingly and more effectively treatable. In addition, a number of anti-viral drugs are available which, although not a cure, may impede the progress of HIV infection. There are now a large variety of anti-HIV drugs, and many new trial drugs are available on expanded access programmes. Many people may experience side-effects, who take these drugs.

These drugs are giving many people who are HIV positive, a better quality of life. However, these drugs are not a cure. People who are HIV-positive normally undergo regular blood tests to evaluate the number of T cells present. In an uninfected person, counts in excess of 800/1200 are common. In cases where the T cell count (also known as CD4) of a person with HIV is below 200/250. Another test available is the Viral Load Test, which measures the actual amount of virus within the body which can range from 0 to Millions. The doctor may recommend anti-viral treatment even though the person remains asymptomatic. These blood tests can cause concerns to a client prior to the result and after, so Befrienders should be aware of these concerns and should attempt to understand these apprehensions, particularly bloods tests and the changes in drug treatments. The evidence suggests that people who are asymptomatic are less likely to experience the side effects of certain drugs. There follows a list of the more common illnesses associated with HIV infection.

However, it is important to remember that many of the signs and symptoms listed are also common with other illnesses not associated with AIDS, and that anyone developing similar signs or symptoms should consult his/her own doctor.

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