Current treatment for HIV is not a cure for the virus, but it can keep HIV under control and this keeps your immune system strong.
People living with HIV should aim to eat a balanced diet, without too much fat, sugar or salt. For many people, eating well is a pleasure, and learning how to cook and prepare food for yourself, your family, or friends can be fun.
If you are underweight – perhaps because HIV was already making you ill by the time you were diagnosed – or overweight, or if you have any particular dietary problems or side-effects that make it hard to eat well, then you might benefit from talking to a healthcare professional about your diet.
To make it easier to understand what a balanced diet is made up of, it can help to think about the type of foods you eat.
- plenty of fruit and vegetables to provide fiber, vitamins and minerals
- plenty of starchy carbohydrates to give you energy – such as brown rice, potatoes, wholemeal pasta and bread
- some protein such as lean meat, fish, eggs and beans
- some dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt and cheese
- small amounts of fats and sugar
Exercise and keeping fit
Being active is good for you in lots of ways – it can help to build your muscles, keep your bones strong, burn fat and keep your heart healthy. Some people who are living with HIV experience a loss of muscle mass and strength, so exercise can help prevent this.
Particularly as we get older, regular exercise is important in reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, which can be more common in people living with HIV. Exercise is also great at reducing feelings of stress and symptoms of depression.
Mental Health Is Key
Taking care of yourself is not just about your physical health, but looking after your mental and emotional health too.
Finding out you have HIV can be a shock, and it may take you some time to adjust. Support from your friends and family, or other people living with HIV, can really help when you are finding things difficult.
Set A Life’s Goal
Once you begin coming to terms with HIV, it’s a good idea to think about the rest of your life. What are your goals? What’s important to you? Maybe you want to study, have a family, travel or change career – HIV shouldn’t stop you doing any of these things!
Many of the things we do to look after ourselves are common sense. Try to get plenty of rest and sleep. If you smoke, try to stop – it isn’t always easy, but there is support available to help you. If you are concerned about your alcohol or drug use, talk to a healthcare professional for advice and support.