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Lifestyle Changes to Manage AIDS
The major lifestyle measures recommended for AIDS and HIV infection are:
- Decreasing your risk of infections and keeping your immune system healthy
- Preventing the spread of HIV to others
- Emotional support and counseling
General Guidelines for Managing AIDS
Decreasing Your Risk of Infections and Keeping Your Immune System Healthy
If you are infected with HIV, your immune system may not be able to fight off other infections. Suggestions to lower your risk of infections and to keep your immune system as healthy as possible include:
- Wash your hands often and always after using the bathroom and before preparing food.
- Clean under your fingernails.
- Use hand cream to prevent dry skin.
- Cover any cuts or sores.
- Avoid unnecessary contact with people who are ill.
- Get any vaccines recommended by your doctor.
- Do not handle cat litter boxes or stool (feces).
- Do not touch bird droppings or fish tank water.
- Wear gloves when gardening.
- Keep the house clean, using bleach to clean toilets.
- Do not eat raw eggs, fish, or shellfish.
- Eat meats, poultry, and fish that are cooked to well-done.
- Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet.
- Manage stress.
- Do not smoke, drink alcohol, or use recreational drugs.
- Get adequate rest.
- Exercise regularly.
- Keep up with your doctor visits. Ask questions about new lifestyle changes including travel plans you are considering. Your doctor can help you lower the risk of infections.
Preventing the Spread of HIV to Others
Having sex or sharing needles with another person can transmit HIV.
To avoid infecting anyone else:
- Abstain from sex. If you are sexually active, use a male latex condom. Sexual activity includes intercourse and any other sexual acts that result in the exchange of bodily fluids.
- Inform former or potential sexual partners of your HIV-positive status.
- Do not share personal items, such as razors, toothbrushes, or tweezers.
- Do not donate blood, tissue, fluids, or organs.
- Talk to your doctor about contraception options.
- If you have a baby, do not breastfeed. The virus can be transmitted in your milk.
Emotional Support and Counseling
Counseling with a mental health professional can:
- Improve your coping strategies for dealing with the physical symptoms of AIDS
- Help you tell your family and friends that you have HIV infection
- Assist you in dealing with the stress and anger that often accompanies diagnosis of HIV infection
- Help you deal with losses associated with the disease, such as the inability to work and dependence on others for housekeeping or personal care
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of counseling that focuses on how your thoughts affect the way you feel and act. CBT can help relieve stress, diminish feelings of anger, and improve symptoms of depression and anxiety .
In addition, you may find benefit from attending support groups . Other types of therapy, like art therapy, may also be helpful.
When to Contact Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if you notice new or worsening health problems or symptoms.
A guide to primary care of people with HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://hab.hrsa.gov/deliverhivaidscare/files/primary2004ed.pdf. Accessed August 10, 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/Understanding/Pages/whatAreHIVAIDS.aspx. Accessed August 10, 2016.
HIV basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html. Updated July 6, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2016.
HIV infection. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114424/HIV-infection. Updated October 4, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
- Reviewer: David L. Horn, MD
- Review Date: 09/2015
- Update Date: 09/17/2014