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Living with HIV


What are HIV and AIDS?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It harms your immune system by destroying a type of white blood cell that helps your body fight infection.

AIDS is the final stage of infection with HIV. It happens when the body's immune system is badly damaged because of the virus. Not everyone with HIV develops AIDS.

Are there treatments for HIV?

There is no cure for HIV, but there are many medicines to treat both HIV infection and the health problems and infections (called opportunistic infections, or OIs) and that come with it. These other infections are called opportunistic infections (OIs). The medicines allow people with HIV to have long, healthy lives.

How can I live a healthier life with HIV?

IIf you have HIV, you can help yourself by:

  • Getting medical care as soon as you find out that you have HIV. You should find a health care provider who has experience in treating HIV.
  • Taking your medicines every day.
  • Letting your provider know if you get any symptoms or health problems.
  • Keeping up with your regular medical and dental care.
  • Managing stress and getting support, such as from support groups, therapists, and social service organizations
  • Trying to live a healthy lifestyle, including:
    • Eating healthy foods.This can give your body the energy it needs to fight HIV and other infections. It can help you manage HIV symptoms and medicine side effects. It may also improve absorption of your HIV medicines.
    • Getting regular exercise. This can strengthen your body and immune system. It may also reduce the risk of depression.
    • Getting enough sleep. Sleep is important for your physical strength and mental health.
    • Not smoking. People with HIV who smoke have a higher risk of developing conditions such as certain cancers and infections. Smoking can also interfere with your medicines.
    • Avoiding heavy drinking or taking illegal drugs. They can damage your liver, which means your HIV medicine may not work as well. They can also make it harder for your body to fight infections.
    • Protecting yourself from OIs. Talk to your provider about medicines and vaccines that prevent certain OIs. Also be careful to avoid exposure to contaminated food and water.

It is also important to reduce the risk of spreading HIV to other people. You should tell your sex partners that you have HIV and always use latex condoms. If your or your partner is allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms.

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Reference Desk

  • Glossary From the National Institutes of Health (; National Institutes of Health, Office of AIDS Research)

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The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.