Nutrition and Lifestyle: Staying healthy and happy with HIV

HOW CAN YOU STAY HEALTHY WITH HIV?

The best way to stay healthy if you have HIV is by starting on treatment as soon as you test HIV- positive. It is better to start HIV treatment as soon as possible, rather than waiting to get sick or having symptoms. South Africa has a Test and Treat Policy, which means that if a person tests positive for HIV, they can start taking ARVs immediately, no matter what their CD4 count is. Talk to your healthcare worker to find out which treatment plan will be best for you.

“I cannot recall a serious side effect that may have caused me to say that I don’t want to take treatment anymore. As you continue taking your medication, it’s a routine that reminds you all the time that you are HIV- positive. You get tired of taking the medication. But what is important is the desire that you have for your life that pushes you to say, ‘As much as I am tired, I cannot stop’.” Oziel Mdletshe

Treating opportunistic infections Opportunistic infections are infections that occur more frequently and are more serious in people who have weakened immune systems. Many people living with HIV develop these infections because they may not know about their HIV infection, they may not be on treatment yet or may not be taking their treatment correctly, and their viral load is too high for their immune system to fight off infections. Common infections include fungal infections such as thrush or pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP); parasitic infections that cause diarrhoea or lung disease; viral infections like herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV) and meningitis; and bacterial infections like TB, which is the most common co-infection for people living with HIV in South Africa. If you experience any of the symptoms of opportunistic infections, tell your healthcare worker as soon as possible and get early treatment. With treatment, most of these opportunistic infections can be cured successfully.

HOW TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

For people living with HIV, a healthy lifestyle is the same as it is for anyone else. It involves eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and enough rest, and taking care of your mental well-being. Choosing a healthy lifestyle will help you to:

• Process ARVs and manage their side effects;

• Keep your immune system stronger so that it can fight disease and infections better;

• Lower your risk of developing heart diseases, diabetes, cancers and hypertension and,

• Reach and stay at a healthy weight;

“My partner is part of my health care. On day to day basis we try and live as healthy alive as we possibly can. We might do a bit of gardening in the morning as part of our exercise regime. We certainly eat a lot from our garden, pears and very green smoothie in the morning and we try and eat food that comes from pretty close to us in the area.” Shane Petzer

ABOUT US

Zenzele is an ARV adherence program that promotes adherence to ARV treatment and encourages healthy living on ARVS as part of the HIV journey. The campaign utilizes peer support and social media platforms to promote ARV adherence and ultimately viral load suppression.

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