HIV/Aids

Updated 23 November 2015

Planning for the future with HIV

Being diagnosed with HIV can be extremely difficult to deal with but acceptance, knowledge, proper management of your condition and support from loved ones can all assist you in having a happy and healthy future.

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Finding out that you suffer from a chronic disease like HIV can make it difficult to think about the future because of all the uncertainties it may bring. With proper management and treatment, people with HIV are living long and healthy lives.

The first step in planning for the future is taking responsibility for your health now. A healthy diet, regular exercise, testing your CD4 count and viral load and taking your antiretrovirals (ARV's) properly are factors that you have control over and contribute significantly to your health and fulfilment in the future.

There are however, a number of complications that you could face. If your CD4+ count  falls below 350, your condition is classified as being in the Aids phase and your viral load will significantly increase. Only when patients enter the last phase of HIV infection can they be said to have full-blown Aids. It usually takes about 18 months for the major symptomatic phase to develop into Aids.

In the final stage of Aids, the symptoms of HIV disease become more acute, patients become infected by relatively rare and unusual organisms that do not respond to antibiotics, the immune system deteriorates, and more persistent and untreatable opportunistic conditions and cancers begin to manifest.

A healthy lifestyle

The first step in planning for the future is taking responsibility for your health now. A healthy lifestyle, regular testing of your CD4 and viral load and taking your antiretrovirals properly are factors that you have control over and contribute significantly to your health and fulfilment in the future.

There are a number of nutrition guidelines supplied by the World Health Organisation that are

especially important for those who have suffered weight loss.  These recommendations include:

 

-          Increase energy (kilojoule) intake by about 10% from time of diagnosis

-          During disease or illness, increase energy intake to 20-30%.

-          Maintain an adequate protein intake of 12 – 15% of total energy intake

 

While the quality of your lifestyle is likely the biggest factor in planning for a healthy future, there are a number of other factors that can reduce stress and provide you with more confidence in managing your HIV.


Your relationships

Relationships can be difficult for someone with HIV because of stigma and other people’s perceptions of the condition.

Disclosure is best when it comes to sexual partners. If your partner is aware of your condition, the two of you can plan how to prevent transmission.

Furthermore, it enables your partner pin to better support you both psychologically and with the lifestyle changes that you may need to make.

Disclosing your status to family and friends is entirely your choice. It is best to take your time and decide if, when and how you want to tell your family or friends.

Read: Understanding HIV stigma essential


Having a family

Today, there are options available for having an HIV-negative child if one or even both parents have HIV. Taking antiretrovirals as prescribed by a doctor before and during pregnancy, having a caesarean section and avoiding breastfeeding can reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission to 2%, according to Aids.gov.

There are also a number of alternatives such as sperm donation from an HIV-negative male, adoption and ‘sperm washing’. ‘Sperm washing’ involves removing the HIV from a sperm sample before inserting the sample into the female partner.

Discuss your options with your partner and with your doctor to ensure that you are making an informed decision.

ReadManage HIV earlier rather than later

Life insurance

Having access to life insurance is not only about ensuring the financial stability of your family and beneficiaries in the event of your death, but it has an impact on how you life your life too.

With statistics showing that more and more people are living longer with HIV, your quality of life may be hindered by the fact you do not have life insurance. Life insurance does however give you better access to loan finance to buy property or the opportunity to invest in business prospects.

On a psychological level, having life insurance despite being diagnosed with a condition such as HIV can do wonders for you as it serves to remind that HIV is no longer a death sentence, but rather a chronic disease that can be managed with the right treatment and proper support.

Read: Why life insurance is important for those with HIV


Support groups

Suffering from a chronic illness can take its toll on your mental health. Some may find that meeting other people with HIV may provide comfort and a sense of support.

For details on the different support groups available and where you can find them, click here.


Keep in the know

The best way to plan for the future is to have a good knowledge of your condition and any news relating to HIV. Familiarise yourself with your rights, especially in the workplace. The more you know about changes to the law or medical developments, the better you will be able to manage your condition. 


Read more:
I'm HIV positive - what now?
Children affected by HIV/AIDS
The impact of your HIV diagnosis on your significant others


Image: Loving young mother with baby from Shutterstock

 

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HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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