Living With HIV
There are several amazing websites that are devoted to providing helpful information to people living with HIV/AIDS. We include links to these sites below because they do an excellent job of providing comprehensive information about medical and social issues related to living with HIV.
We have also provided some basic highlights of important issues.
Get on Treatment
The standard of care for people living with HIV in the United States is to get on a regime of antiviral medicines as soon as possible after getting an HIV positive diagnosis. The goal of the medicines are to lower the amount of virus in your body to an undetectable amount. This means that there are very low levels of HIV still in your body but the volume is too small to be detected by lab tests. Being undetectable slows down damage that HIV can do to your body and decreases the risk of you passing along HIV to a partner.
Take Your Medicine
It is important to take your medication as prescribed. If you have forgotten to take some or all your medicines for a period of time, please talk to your medical provider to get guidance about what to do. Sometimes, changing the amount of medicine or not taking all types of your antiviral medication can allow the virus to become resistant to the medicines. Medical providers have the knowledge to help you figure out what to do.
See Your Medical Provider Regularly for Check-Ups
Work with your medical provider to determine how ofter you should come in for tests and an exam. Tests can help monitor the effectiveness of your medication regime and detect any changes in your health.
Get Tested for Other STDs At Least Every Three Months
If you are sexually active, get checked for other STDs at least every three months. Talk to your medical provider or test counselor to figure out the right schedule for you. Some STDs progress more rapidly in people living with HIV and its important to detect them early to protect your health and to decrease the risk of transmission af any STD to a sex partner.
Impact of PrEP
HIV negative guys who are taking PrEP as directed can be 99% protected against contracting HIV. If you have an undetectable viral load, it substantially decreases the chance that you could pass on HIV to an HIV negative partner. Some HIV negative men taking PrEP and HIV positive men with an undetectable viral load are choosing to have condomless sex. For many of these men, there is healing in the decrease of stigma and fear that allows the two groups to have more freedom of choice in their sexual practices. As with any condomless sex, there is also an increased chance of transmitting other STDs and therefore, all MSM are encouraged to get checked for STDs at least every three months.
Long Term Survivors
Many Long Term Survivors have lived through traumatic episodes of severe illness, been on early medicine regimes that were toxic to their bodies, and suffered enormous emotional loss. These men and women deserve your ultimate respect and compassion. Many are now experiencing serious medical issues and continue to suffer from depression. In the wake of medical break-throughs such as PrEP, this group may feel left out. Unfortunately most services targeting this group were eliminated and many long term survivors experience isolation-even within the gay communities they helped build and strengthen. We urge the decision-makers of public health and social service systems to include services to support this group of people.