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Live healthy: Living with HIV/AIDS

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More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV or AIDS. Almost 1 in 6 (15.8%) are unaware of their infection according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you have not been tested for the HIV virus or any STD's (sexually transmitted diseases), go get tested.

Don't be afraid of a positive diagnosis. There is help and great hope for a wonderful, full life even with not so happy test results. Knowing your status so you can receive proper healthcare is better than not knowing and suffering in the future. It will also prevent others from contracting anything. Your privacy will be respected and no one, but you and your healthcare provider needs to know your situation.

However, if you are infected with any STD including HIV, it is your legal responsibility to inform your potential sexual partners before you have any sexual contact with them. You'll be surprised how many people will understand what's going on in your life.

Gay, Bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly young black/African American MSM are most seriously affected by HIV.

By race, blacks/African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV. Heterosexual males and females are also included in these numbers of all races. The CDC estimates that even persons as young as thirteen are living with the virus.

In the "Live Healthy" series, we will discuss different strategies that will help people live longer, more productive lives with any type of disease. With new technology, medicines and even natural remedies, people will benefit from the information offered in the sequence. The knowledge within will also help friends and families.

While HIV is serious, there are ways to live a long, comfortable and productive life and manage the disease. But, how did it all begin?

Ways you might have gotten HIV

  • Sharing a needle to inject drugs or sharing drug works with someone who has HIV
  • Having a mother who was infected with HIV when you were born
  • From a blood transfusion before 1985
  • Having unprotected or "bareback" sex without condoms

Ways you did NOT get HIV

  • Being around someone who has HIV
  • Getting a hug or handshake from someone with HIV
  • Being stung or bitten by an insect
  • Sitting on toilet seats
  • Doing everyday things like sharing a meal
  • Having a roommate or living with someone with HIV

There is a difference between HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). CD4 or helper "T" cells that normally fight infection are attacked by the virus and make copies. Those copies are estimated in a viral load. A person with low T-cells and a low or undetectable viral load (copies below 20) can be very healthy and pose less of a risk of transmitting the virus.

The normal range of T-cells is 500 to 1,800 in a healthy person with or without HIV. If that count goes below 200 in an HIV infected person, then they are considered to have AIDS. The latter diagnosis is when a person has multiple symptoms, infections and specific test results.

Various factors play a role in the time frame of a person developing AIDS from HIV. With aggressive treatment, people with AIDS can raise their T-cell count and be once again classified as only having HIV. Some components for developing AIDS are:

  • Older age
  • Infection with more than one type of HIV
  • Poor nutrition
  • Severe stress or depression

Ways to stay healthy longer:

  • See a healthcare provider who knows how to treat HIV.
  • Begin treatment promptly.
  • Keep your appointments.
  • Call your doctor if you get sick from your medicine.
  • Get immunizations (shots) to prevent flu and pneumonia.
  • Practice safe sex to not get or spread other sexually transmitted diseases (STD's).
  • Quit smoking or using unprescribed drugs.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get enough sleep and rest.
  • Relax, relax, relax.

For more information about HIV/AIDS, visit Healthy Living with HIV at their official website.

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