Welcome to CATIE's Practical Guide to a Healthy Body for People Living with HIV.
Thanks to dramatic and ongoing improvements in HIV treatment, most people with HIV are now living much longer than ever imagined possible. This means that we can now think about our health from a long-term perspective. We can consider the impact of HIV as we age and take care of ourselves with this in mind.
Certainly, it is still important to educate ourselves about the acute health conditions associated with HIV and the short-term side effects of HIV treatment. But it is also important to examine the long-term effects of living with the virus and to care for our bodies, which over the years bear the burden of HIV infection and the long-term side effects of HIV medication.
As you’ll see in the sections that follow, HIV and the medications used to control it can have many long-term effects—on our bones, our major organs, our hormones, our blood sugar and our cholesterol levels. Even when controlled by antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV causes chronic inflammation that can have cumulative effects on all the major organs and systems of the body. In the brain, this inflammation can lead to cognitive impairment of varying degrees (problems with a person’s memory, thinking and judgment). In the bones, it can lead to accelerated loss of bone density. People with HIV are also at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and kidney problems. But just as there are many possible long-term effects of HIV and its treatment, there are also many ways, especially if we know our HIV status early on, that we can take our health in hand to prevent or resolve them. This guide will hopefully help you to do just that.
We hope that this guide will help you become—and remain—the healthiest you can be for the longest time possible. It will help you understand more about the ways in which HIV and ART can affect your body and what you can do to prevent and manage long-term health conditions alongside your HIV. You will need your doctor and other healthcare providers to help you access some of the treatments suggested in this guide, but you will also find advice on over-the-counter remedies and lots of things you can do to help yourself.
As the title says, this publication is meant to be a practical guide. Feel free to use it in any way that suits you. You may want to read only the sections that relate to specific issues you are experiencing or you may choose to read it from start to finish to promote your overall health and well-being.
What we know about HIV, its treatment and the long-term impact of living with HIV on our bodies is constantly evolving. In this guide, we’ve tried to focus on information not apt to change quickly.
For the most up-to-date information, visit www.catie.ca, where you will find a wealth of information as well as links to many other reputable online sources of HIV information. If you don’t find an answer to your question there, you can contact CATIE with any questions and we’ll do our best to answer them. Most importantly, don’t forget that none of this information can replace the advice of your doctor.
About the author
Lark Lands has provided expert, holistic and practical advice for healthier living with HIV for more than 30 years.