5 Questions to Ask After an HIV Diagnosis
Finding out you have HIV can be overwhelming. You’ll probably have a lot of thoughts, questions, and feelings swarming around inside of your head. Even though an HIV diagnosis isn’t as deadly as it once was, it can still be frightening.
To help you get the most out of your appointment with your doctor and to ensure all your questions are answered, we’ve created this guide. It can be useful to take a list of all your questions and concerns, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.
It’s important to take the time to ask your doctor everything you need to know so don’t feel rushed. Remember that your healthcare providers are your best resource for learning everything you can about your new diagnosis and they’re there to help. Afterall, the best way to effectively manage any health condition is to be fully informed about it.
What does it mean to have HIV? Do I have AIDS?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that makes a person more susceptible to infections and diseases. This is because HIV attacks the cells in your body that are used to fight off infection. It’s spread through certain bodily fluids, usually during sexual activity or when needles are shared among drug users.
AIDS is the final stage of HIV and is the most severe. At this stage, the body will seriously struggle with fighting off infections and diseases because the immune system has become too damaged.
Having HIV doesn’t mean you’ll develop AIDS. Treatments have come a long way in the past few decades and these treatments can give an HIV positive person a normal life expectancy- without them ever getting AIDS. However, if left untreated, HIV can turn into AIDS within 5-10 years.
How do you decide which drugs I should be taking?
Sticking to an effective medication regimen as soon as possible is vital to managing HIV. The British HIV Association (BHIVA) is the organisation for specialist HIV doctors in the UK and they set out the medical treatment people living with HIV in the UK should receive.
These guidelines recommend that everyone with HIV should start treatment immediately, usually with a combination of three anti-HIV drugs. Ask your doctor to explain their proposed treatment plan: why they’ve chosen these drugs, how well they work, and how your doctor will monitor the medication’s efficacy.
For people who have not been on HIV treatment, it’s recommended to start on a combination containing two NRTIs and either a ritonavir-boosted protease inhibitor, an NNRTI, or an integrase inhibitor.
Some examples of the combination of medications you’ll be prescribed include:
- Dolutegravir / tenofovir disoproxil / emtricitabine. This is usually taken as two pills: Tivicay contains dolutegravir, and a pill from a generic manufacturer contains the other two drugs.
- Dolutegravir / tenofovir alafenamide / emtricitabine. This is usually taken as two pills: Tivicay contains dolutegravir, while Descovy contains the other two drugs.
- Bictegravir / tenofovir alafenamide / emtricitabine. This is usually taken as one pill, called Biktarvy.
- Dolutegravir / abacavir / lamivudine. This is usually taken as one pill, called Triumeq.
- Dolutegravir / lamivudine. This combination includes two drugs, not three. It is usually taken as one pill, called Dovato.
What are the potential side effects of these medications?
HIV medications help people with HIV live long, healthy lives. They also reduce the chance of you spreading the virus. However, like all other medications, there are chances of these medications causing side effects. Some of the side effects may be short-term as your body adjusts, others may be manageable, and some others could end up being serious.
Remember that your healthcare provider has prescribed these medications because they believe the benefits outweigh any potential risks. HIV medications are constantly being researched, developed, and improved so side effects aren’t as common or as long-lived as they once were.
For any serious symptoms or for ones that aren’t going away and are disrupting your daily life, speak with your doctor about potential adjustments.
A few common side effects of HIV medications include:
- Skin rash
Do I have to take medication if I'm feeling OK?
Yes! You must keep taking your medications regardless of how well you’re feeling. Skipping doses, mismanaging your medication, or stopping your treatment altogether puts you in danger of becoming severely ill. You’ll also be putting yourself at risk of developing AIDS.
If you’re struggling to continue with your medication, speak to your doctor right away so they can discuss options with you. It’s essential that you continue taking the correct medications correctly to manage your condition.
Are there things I should change about my day-to-day life?
While you can live a completely normal life with HIV, you will need to make some adjustments to keep yourself healthy. In addition to taking your medications, you should also:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Stay up to date on all vaccinations
- Practice safer sex
- Stay active
- Stop smoking
- Don’t take illicit drugs
- Cut back on alcohol
- Get enough sleep each night
Another way to stay healthy is to practise good oral hygiene. Your mouth is vulnerable to germs, bacteria, and infections that can be especially harmful to people with HIV. Brush your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time, floss regularly, and use alcohol-free mouthwash. Drinking plenty of water will also help your oral health and overall health.
Medication Delivery from Pharmacy Planet
Pharmacy Planet is an online pharmacy in the UK that provides customers with medications alongside exemplary service. You can find a wide range of medications and treatments at affordable prices, including ones to take care of your sexual health like Durex condoms.
Some of the medications you’ll find at Pharmacy Planet are:
For prescription medications like Azithromycin Tablets, simply fill out an online assessment for our prescribers to review. Once approved, we will have your medications delivered swiftly, securely, and discreetly right to your doorstep.