Living with HIV

Confident with HIV
An HIV infection has a huge impact in life – no question about it. The more the infected know about their chronic disease, the better they can handle it often. Above all, it is important not to allow life to be dictated by the illness.

Once transferred, the HIV virus remains in the body of the current state of science while lifelong. But with good medication, a normal life can be achieved without great restrictions.

Life with the HIV virus raises many questions. Every now and then uncertainties come to light. How will my partner, my family, my friends deal with the HIV infection? With whom can I talk openly about my infection? What about insurance? Can I continue my job the same way I did before?

Information and knowledge helps in such cases to overcome fears. Patients who become experts in their disease feel less helpless and more self-confident. They are better able to decide for themselves about their life, their HIV disease and can better assess risks for themselves and others. We have compiled the most important information on this page.

Everyday life with HIV: Who tell?
Whether at leisure or at work, people with HIV enjoy life to the fullest, just like everyone else. Nevertheless, questions arise in some places. Contacts such self-help groups know the situation very well, they can answer questions, take fears and find solutions together with those affected. Again and again, HIV-positive people have to decide whether and with whom they talk about the infection or whether they are better at concealing it. While it relieves and relieves stress of having confidants, it can also be that friends or relatives react in a negative way. Often they are simply overwhelmed, they know too little about HIV or they are afraid for the loved one.

Trust is an important component
It is good to first talk to one or more persons who are particularly familiar: the parents, the best friend, a close colleague. It is also helpful to inform yourself well in advance, as these familiar people often have many questions themselves at the first moment – and can only really support them with some delay. Together, questions or fears can be discussed and then dispelled.

Getting older with HIV
In the 1980s and 90s, it was unthinkable what is reality today: HIV-positive people usually have a normal life expectancy. This brings the topic of getting older closer. In Germany for example, one third of those infected with HIV are already over 50. Many want to live self-determined and in familiar surroundings for as long as possible.

Stigmatized by HIV
When AIDS and HIV came into the limelight for the first time in the 1980s, the disease was still largely unexplored. Quickly mixed up various aspects: the fear of infection and the then almost certain fatal outcome. Gay sex was largely considered morally reprehensible. The infected ones were guilty themselves because they practiced sex without a condom. As a result, HIV-infected people were stigmatized and discriminated. Today, HIV and AIDS are among the best-studied diseases in the world. The population is much better informed. Yet, HIV-positives still experience stigma and exclusion in many areas of life.

Working with HIV
Two-thirds of all HIV-positive people are very successful in the job. They are just as often or just as rare sick as their HIV-negative counterparts. In addition, two things are especially important to know: No one has to talk about his HIV infection. The employer has no right to know about it. In interviews, HIV-positive persons may even without consequences hide the infection (similar to pregnancy). Any fears of infecting others are unfounded – even in the care sector, in medicine or in the catering trade. The usual hygiene and protection regulations are the same for all employees and are sufficient.

Relationship and sexuality
A lasting partnership and a fulfilling sexuality are of course also possible with an HIV infection. Condoms and the other safe sex rules protect the sexual partner. Something goes wrong, for example, if the condom ruptures, keep calm. HIV is difficult to transmit. In addition, the risk can be minimized with medication afterwards as well. Think about it in advance and discuss how to deal with such a case. Talk to your doctor in advance about it. Then the panic is not so great afterwards. If your partner regularly takes medication, the risk is very low.

Sexuality and viral load
HIV medications suppress the proliferation of HI viruses in the body. This also reduces the risk of infection. Recent findings even show that a transfer is practically impossible if the HIV-positive drug is optimally adjusted and the medication is taken as prescribed, and the viral load has been below the detection limit for at least half a year. If the conditions are met in consultation with the doctor, the condom can be omitted if both partners agree.

Partnership for HIV-positive
Even if one of the two partners is positive, nothing stands in the way of a happy relationship. Still, there are a few challenges to master. Safer sex rules and information on the current virus status protect and prevent the fear of infecting the partner. Not all fears can be overcome immediately – whether they are very or less likely. If there are problems or other problems that can not be solved together. Even the desire to have children is no longer a dream for those infected with HIV, but can be lived!

A child
Many people want their own children. Thanks to modern medicine, this wish can be realized with practically no risk of  an HIV infection for partner and child. Couples HIV infected with one or both partners are best advised by a specialist physician. For many couples, sexual intercourse is possible, as in HIV negatives. In the few other cases artificial insemination comes into consideration.

A healthy child
The child could basically become infected during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Several methods today reduce the risk considerably. HIV-positive pregnant women can prevent transmission if they:

  • take their HIV medications on a regular basis,
  • carry out the necessary investigations,
  • deliver in an experienced clinic,
  • abstain from breastfeeding,
  • have the child treated preventively after birth.

The guideline is a four-week therapy with HIV medication.

Mental health
Especially people with a chronic illness should pay special attention to their psyche. Because the physical well-being is influenced by the mental. Although diagnosing HIV is a dramatic event for many, most people get along well with a positive test result after a first shock. But mental illnesses such as depression or burnout have been increasing for years. HIV or the separation from a loved one, life crises or permanent stress can be triggers. Depression goes far beyond a momentary depression. However, they can usually be treated well with various methods such as therapy, medical support, sports and medication. The first step is often to recognize the problem and admit it to yourself. It is very helpful to have the courage to seek professional support.

On the way and traveling abroad
Whether on business or leisure, an HIV infection is not in the way of travel plans. On vacation, you can draw strength and reduce stress. Some preparations make the journey easier, especially to faraway countries. However, unlike in Europe, the authorities may impose special conditions or restrictions on entry there – including a ban. If you are well informed, you can protect yourself against it.

Sports & Exercise
HIV experts know that HIV-positive people benefit from sport as much as others. Sport is good for all people and helps to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Sport protects against many diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases and strengthens the immune system. Of course, everyone has to discover their own sport and find their own measure. Take a walk instead of driving or take the stairs instead of the elevator. In this way, you can do something positive for your health through daily exercise and prevent cardiovascular diseases. Exercise is good, it strengthens the immune system and affects the heart and circulation positively. Sport helps with bone density and prevents osteoporosis. Improved quality of life, increased self-esteem and increased well-being are just some of the positive effects reported by exercise-active HIV patients. Also, the side effects of drugs can be alleviated or occur less frequently.

Drugs and HIV
Drug use has an influence on existing HIV therapy. Because the interactions between the substances are sometimes immense and not always immediately noticeable. The one drugs raise, the other lower the level of HIV drugs in the blood. Conversely, an HIV drug can weaken or intensify the effect of the drugs.
If you consume regularly, your HIV therapy may need to be adjusted accordingly. With most specialty doctors, you can talk openly about the interactions and seek advice.

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