There is no vaccine or cure for infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). However, there are many things you can do to manage your HIV infection. There are medicines that can help people living with HIV to live longer and healthier. There are designated centres in Nigeria for HIV management that are mostly located within the General Hospitals in every town or within a devolved (Pharmacy-based) care centre. You will have to attend clinics there regularly for follow up.
But when you are living with HIV, it is more important than ever to protect your immune system to maintain your health. By keeping your body as healthy as possible, it is much better able to fight off other types of infections. If you are living with HIV it is, therefore, important to incorporate healthy habits into your lifestyle.
- First and foremost, practice safe sex. Use condoms not only to avoid the spread of HIV but also to protect both you and your partner against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- Get tested for other STIs at your clinic. If you have another STI, you can more easily infect someone else with HIV. Having STIs can also worsen HIV and make the disease progress more rapidly. An HIV infection can also make STIs more difficult to treat. Getting tested is important because many STIs don't cause any symptoms. Without testing, you may not even realize you have one.
- Take your HIV medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. HIV medicines suppress virus in your body. Take your medication at the same time every day. Always have your medication with you so that if you are away from home, you won’t have to miss a dose.
- Don't abuse drugs or alcohol. Alcohol and other (illegal) drugs can negatively impact your immune system. Using drugs may also affect your treatment adherence.
- Quit smoking. Stopping all tobacco use will help you live healthier, feel better, and reduce your risk of serious health events like heart attack and stroke.
- Exercise your body and mind regularly. Physical and mental exercise can keep your mind and body strong. Regular physical exercise, such as walking, biking, running, swimming, or another activity you enjoy, keeps you physically fit and improves your immune system. Mental exercise like, for example, doing a daily crossword puzzle or playing brain-challenging games can improve your memory, concentration, and attention, all of which can be affected by HIV.
- Join social support services in your community. Speaking and meeting others and discussing your questions and challenges will help motivate you and will improve your treatment adherence.
The keys to staying healthy with HIV are within your control. Take your HIV medicines as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Fuel your body with a healthy, nutritious, and balanced diet, and allow it to recharge each night with enough sleep. Treat your body well to strengthen and to protect it against illnesses that may threaten your health.
- Can you have sex with a partner who is not infected with HIV? If you are infected with HIV and you take your medication as instructed, you can have sex with an HIV negative partner. The medication suppresses the virus in your body, and the risk of infecting someone else is minimized when you have an undetectable viral load. However, it is always important to use condoms for added protection. Your healthcare provider can also put your partner on medication to protect her/him from being infected.
- Can you prevent your baby from being infected with HIV? Yes, you will be prescribed HIV medicines during pregnancy and after the birth of your baby to reduce the amount of virus in your blood. This will minimize the risks of transmission to your baby. The baby can also be started on medicines for transmission prevention once he/she is born. Talk to your healthcare provider if you and your partner want to have children and one or both of you have an HIV infection.
- For how long will you be on medications? Currently, there is no cure for HIV. Therefore, you will have to take your medicines for the rest of your life. HIV medication can help you live a long and healthy life.