Although the two diseases are associated with one another, HIV and AIDS are technically different illness stages that are linked. While people with AIDS have HIV, not all patients who are HIV positive progress to the stage of AIDS. HIV is a virus that attacks the T cells in the body, and thus causes a reaction that leads to a compromised immune system.
AIDS is the outcome of when HIV has progressed to the point that the immune system can no longer fight off any illness. This means that the replication of the human immunodeficiency virus has reached a point where it outnumbers the T cells within the body.
People Living with HIV
Patients who have been diagnosed with HIV can take treatment steps that will reduce the possibility of developing AIDS. In most cases, regular screening and blood panels can diagnose HIV at an early stage, which allows for appropriate measures to be taken. The use of anti-retroviral therapy increases life expectancy as well as quality of life for patients with this condition. Although the therapy is not actually considered a cure, it has produced profound effects for people living with HIV.
Since the treatment is not a cure, patients with HIV will still need to take precautions in daily living, both for their own safety, and for the safety of others. Since the virus is spread through bodily fluids it can be important to take steps which will minimize risks.
• Abstinence / Safe sex – While the use of protective barriers during intercourse can significantly reduce the risk of infection, abstinence is the only sure way to minimize this vector of contagion. This can also include disclosure to partners and loved ones about the presence of the virus.
• Needle safety – Although drug use can inhibit the effectiveness of treatment interventions, patients with HIV may need to inject their actual medications, especially if they are suffering from other health conditions such as diabetes. This requires that people living with HIV do not share needles and also safely dispose of any used needles in bio-hazard receptacles.
• Personal hygiene tools – Everyday objects such as razors and toothbrushes should also be kept out of reach of others in order to reduce contagion risks. In households where one member is HIV positive, this can include expressly marking or storing any hygiene products, and not sharing any of these tools.
Healthy Living with HIV
Along with specialty treatment through medication regimens, lifestyle changes can also impact the prognosis for people with HIV. This can include nutritional and supplemental support for full body health, as well as emotional support through counseling and other resource networks. The inclusion of activity and exercise is encouraged as well, since this can have an impact on both mental health and a better immune response.
Support groups for patients with HIV may be based out of public health departments, but often include non-profit and community organizations. These foundations will often assist with referrals to specialists as well as listings for a specialty pharmacy that can provide the required medications for management.
A large part of healthy living with HIV is the emotional aspect. Diagnosis for this disease still carries a stigma, and many people who are recently diagnosed with the virus are not always aware that the prognosis is one of management. This can often lead to depression and negative coping measures, as the prevalence of people with HIV and alcoholism is common. However, support groups help in educating and providing resources for individuals with the virus, and the focus on healthy living is also one of positive perspectives.
Is HIV Considered a Disability?
HIV itself is not considered a disability, although complications that are associated with a progression into AIDS may lead to the need for home care or support. Most individuals with HIV can still enjoy independent living, by adhering to medication protocols and taking steps to reduce risks of infection. Although disclosure may be necessary for certain jobs such as healthcare provider or corrections officer, people who are living with HIV are not obligated to share this diagnosis with anyone except an intimate partner.
Living with a Roommate with HIV
Whether it is a family based household or friends who are cohabitating, living with a roommate with HIV can also be a part of healthy living. In most cases, the emotional support that is offered by household members can be extremely necessary for the patient. Depending upon the stage of the HIV lifecycle, roommates and family members may also be able to assist in daily tasks and care giving.
It is important to understand that the transmission of the virus is through bodily fluids such as:
- Vaginal secretions
- Breast milk
Risk of infection with HIV is often lesser than infecting the patient with a common cold. This will include that precautions are taken by all members of the household in order to maintain health.
Breaking Down Stereotypes
The diagnosis of HIV positive is still associated with a number of negative stereotypes. In truth, people who are living with HIV come from all walks of life and all socio-economic demographics. This disease is as prevalent in healthcare workers who may have been accidentally infected on the job as it is in someone who injected drugs.
One of the biggest stereotypes that should be negated is that the illness is associated with any one lifestyle. As a human immunodeficiency virus, it can affect any human, regardless of their gender, creed, or nationality.
Looking at Daily Living
People with HIV are able to lead long and healthy lives, with the help of support networks, specialty treatment, and lifestyle changes. The prognosis for this disease is greatly improved and basic considerations can aid in this outlook. This includes:
- Good nutrition and healthy foods
- Avoiding infectious risks, including food borne and animal borne illnesses
- Adhering to medication protocols
- Getting emotional or spiritual support
- Keeping up with physicals and immunizations