How people cope with being diagnosed with HIV varies from person to person. Many people feel upset, shocked or angry and have trouble taking it in. If you have just been diagnosed with HIV, it is likely that you will have a lot of questions.
First things first, by properly managing your condition – taking your medication correctly and keeping healthy – you’ll be able to live a normal a life. The most important thing is to access care and start treatment as soon as possible.
How is HIV treated?
There is no cure for HIV but there are treatments to enable people living with the virus to live a long and healthy life. HIV is treated with antiretrovirals (ARVs). These work by stopping the virus replicating in the body, allowing the immune system to repair itself and prevent further damage.
Patients tend to take three or more types of ARV medication and a different combination of ARVs work for different people. This means the medicine you take is individual to you.
It could take a while for the right combination of ARVs to be found for you, but once you adhere to your treatment, you may only need to see your doctor once or twice a year. Once you start treatment for HIV, you will need to take the medicine for the rest of your life – everyday, at the times prescribed. Read more about how HIV is treated.
Later stage diagnosis
A late diagnosis is not uncommon; in 2014, Public Health England reported that 40% of people diagnosed with HIV found out late.
A late diagnosis is when you are diagnosed with a CD4 count below 350, or when you are diagnosed within three months of your CD4 count going below 350. If this diagnosis is made, then your doctor will want you to start treatment right away, unless there are any other pressing medical conditions to attend to.
Living with HIV long term
HIV medication can be very effective as long as you adhere to the treatment that your doctor prescribes you. A healthy diet and regular exercise will help keep your immune system strong, ensuring that opportunistic infections don’t occur. If you start your treatment in a timely manner, you should expect to live a normal lifespan, meaning that you must consider how to manage your health in your old age, living with the combined effects of ageing, and being HIV positive.