Managing your health: a guide for people living with HIV
As a researcher who has been working with people with HIV for 25 years, I have often asked myself what it would be like to be suddenly informed I was HIV-positive. How would I react? Would I be devastated? Would I believe my life had changed permanently for the worse? Would my relationships with loved ones come to an end? How would I respond?
These questions are difficult, but patients newly diagnosed with HIV should be reassured that their lives need not change in many ways. In fact, I believe people who are diagnosed with HIV disease should be told that they will continue to have full, productive lives. The reason is simple. The new antiretroviral drugs now in use do an excellent job at preventing HIV from replicating and are far less toxic than the first generation of anti-HIV drugs developed before the mid-1990s. Patients today can expect their viral loads will remain suppressed enough to prevent serious consequences of HIV infection.
This new edition of CATIE’s Managing your health deals with issues of HIV prevention, awareness and treatment. It provides answers to almost any question an HIV-positive person might ask, and does so in a way that’s easy to read and understand. It provides comprehensive answers to almost any question patients are likely to have immediately after their diagnosis, as well as over the months and years to come. Managing your health makes the important point that patients play key roles in their own health management, emphasizing that successful HIV treatment happens as a partnership between people living with HIV, their doctors, counsellors and other caregivers.
In a way, the life of every person treated for HIV disease represents an experiment in progress, since we simply do not know for how long our drugs will work well. After all, the people who have lived longest with HIV, including those on antiretroviral drugs, have now been infected for 25 years or less. The best advice to give to an HIV-positive individual is to live life optimistically and responsibly.
There are many new tools in the fight against HIV, and it is safe to think even more progress will be made in the development of safe, effective treatments in the future.
We all share the responsibility to try to turn the tide on this epidemic, not only by the development of newer and better drugs, but also through personal and public health measures that will prevent the spread of this virus.
Dr. Mark A. Wainberg
Director of Research at the Jewish General Hospital, Montreal
Director of the McGill University AIDS Centre
Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology, McGill University, Montreal