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Discharge Instructions for HIV Infection and AIDS
You’ve been diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS is a disease than can be life threatening. HIV attacks the body's immune system, making it tougher to fight infection. For most people, infections are normally not severe or fatal. But for people with HIV or AIDS, these infections can sometimes cause severe complications. They can even be deadly if the body can’t fight them well enough. Unlike most other viruses, the body can't get rid of HIV. Here's what you can do to help stay healthier and prevent the spread of HIV.
Take your medicine exactly as directed.
Don’t take any other medicine unless your healthcare provider says it’s OK. This includes prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, or vitamins or supplements. Medicine interactions can change how medicines work. They can cause serious side effects.
Tell your provider about any side effects
See your healthcare provider regularly. Your provider will need to follow you closely for the rest of your life.
Tell all your providers that you are HIV-positive. This includes dentists and dental hygienists.
Help prevent the spread of HIV
If you are on HIV medicine and the amount of virus in your body (the viral load) is undetectable, your risk for spreading HIV to someone is very low. Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load is the best thing you can do to stay healthy and to prevent spreading HIV. Here are some tips:
Never share needles or other equipment for drug use.
If you get tattoos or have any parts of your body pierced, be sure that the needles are destroyed afterward.
Don't donate blood, plasma, semen, or organs.
If you are trying to have a baby, make sure you are taking your antiretroviral medicine each day and your viral load is undetectable. This is important both before conceiving and during the pregnancy.
If your viral load is not undetectable, you can protect your sex partner by:
Using condoms every time you have anal or vaginal sex.
Choosing lower risk sexual activities, such as oral sex.
Talking with your partner about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). This is medicine your partner takes daily to prevent HIV.
Reducing your risk for infection
If your HIV is well-controlled and your immune system is strong, your risk for infection is low. Infections are less common now than in the early days of HIV because treatments are better today. But it's important to know how to reduce your risk and stay healthy.
Follow a good diet and stay at a healthy weight. This will help protect your immune system. Talk with your healthcare provider about seeing a dietitian to help review your nutritional needs.
Exercise for endurance and to boost your immune system and your mental health.
Wash your hands often with clean, warm or cold water. If soap and water is not available, use alcohol-based hand cleaner. Wash your hands before and after taking care of any cuts, scrapes, or wounds.
Know what germs you are exposed to. Some germs are more common in certain areas or from animals. Limit your exposure to farm, stray, or unknown animals.
If you do have contact with an animal, wash your hands afterward.
Don't have contact with pet urine or stool. Wear gloves if you might come in contact with pet urine or stool.
Don’t clean litter boxes, cages, or aquariums.
Don't eat undercooked, unpasteurized, or unwashed foods. This includes undercooked eggs, raw milk and cheeses, unpasteurized fruit juices, and raw seed sprouts.
Don’t smoke or use tobacco products. If you do, try to quit.
Don't drink untreated water, such as from a creek or river. If you travel to foreign countries, drink bottled water or use water filters.
Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.
When to get medical care
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:
Blurred vision or other eye problems
Tiredness that gets worse
Wheezing, trouble breathing, or shortness of breath
Fast, irregular heartbeat
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
Rash or hives
Cut or rash that swells, turns red, feels hot or painful, or begins to ooze
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider
Diarrhea that does not go away after 2 loose stools
Pain or cramping in your belly (abdomen)
Online Medical Reviewer:
Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer:
Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed:
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.