Just Diagnosed Just Diagnosed? Here are some FAQs. Since the early days of the epidemic, treatments have been revolutionized, and with modern medications you can now look forward to living a long and healthy life, pursuing all the same dreams you had before you were HIV-positive. Medicine has made the virus a manageable condition — and breakthroughs continue to be made. Still, you naturally have questions and concerns.
You are the same person who walked into the clinic before receiving your test results. Find a doctor who is highly knowledgeable about HIV and is the right fit for you. When should I start treatment? Ideally you should begin treatment as soon as possible, like the day you get your positive result. Early HIV treatment has been shown to provide long-term advantages.
Even without symptoms, if your infection runs unchecked it can compromise your immune system. So get that prescription and start taking your meds right away.
During your first appointment, your doctor will do your initial lab work. This is to see what your CD4 count and viral load is. Your CD4 count is the number of disease-fighting white blood cells you have in your body, and your viral load is the number of copies of HIV in your blood.
Your doctor will also determine whether the virus you have is resistant to any medications. No matter what your CD4 count may be, most people can bring their count up by simply taking a single-pill regimen. The same medication can also help reduce your viral load to an undetectable level. The key to staying healthy and keeping an undetectable viral load is to not miss a dose—just as you should with medication for any other condition.
Am I going to die? A person diagnosed today has roughly the same life expectancy as a person who is HIV-negative. However, your virus does make you more susceptible to other health problems that you need to be aware of. Some of these are cardiovascular disease, kidney problems, and bone density loss.
But before you start to panic, know that these all can be prevented with lifestyle changes and the right medication. Being knowledgeable about what to look out for is the best way to ensure a long and healthy life. When your CD4 count dips below and your immune system is so damaged that common illnesses can be life-threatening, then your disease is classified as AIDS.
As long as you stay on your medication and keep a healthy body and mind, you can keep your CD4 count in the healthy zone and far away from the level of AIDS. And if your CD4 count is already in the danger zone, the correct medication can bring you back up to healthy levels. Your doctor may talk a lot about the importance of staying compliant or adhering to your treatment regimen. What they mean is that studies show taking your medication as prescribed is the best way to maintain your health long-term.
Whereas, adherence implies doing something out of a commitment you have made. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that research has shown antiretroviral therapy both keeps people living with HIV healthy and has a preventative effect: This means that people who take ART daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.
Can I only have sex with other people who are also HIV-positive? Today, there are multiple ways to have safer sex. Staying adherent with your meds and maintaining an undetectable viral load is one of the best ways to ensure that you never transmit the virus.
Can I still have kids? Yes, you can still have kids if you are HIV-positive. Still, if you are planning to make a baby the old-fashioned way, you should speak with a specialist first.