Guide to Living with HIV

 

The US Health and Human Services agency reports that there are over one million people in the US living with HIV today. About 1 in 7 of these patients aren’t even aware that they are infected.

If you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with this disease, your best medical defense is to arm yourself with the facts. Check here for a list of tips and resources on living with HIV. Use these resources to help you make every day count.

What Is HIV

HIV is an acronym that stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is spread through body fluids that attack your immune system’s CD4 cells.

HIV destroys these cells that your body needs to fight off disease or infections. HIV is spread through an infected person’s semen, vaginal fluid or blood to another’s body.

This transfer can occur through childbirth or sexual contact. Drug users who use shared needles when they inject drugs can also contract HIV.

There is no known cure for HIV. But once you’ve mastered some fundamental information on living with the disease, HIV can be managed. Here’s just a few of the basics:

Understanding Treatment

HIV falls into a category of virus called retrovirus. A combination of medications is used to treat a retrovirus. This combination is called antiretroviral therapy (ART).

ART Medication Side Effects

Like most medications ART might come with side effects. Some of the most common side effects include:
Diarrhea
Dizziness
Fatigue
Headaches
Vomiting or nausea

Unfortunately, some HIV medications have even more severe side effects than the annoying symptoms listed above. One of these drugs is called Truvada.

Truvada is a prescription medication that helps reduce the risk of contracting HIV through sexual contact. Unfortunately, side effects reported from using Truvada include renal failure and kidney damage.

If you’re suffering from these symptoms, contact a Truvada lawsuit attorney immediately. These law firms can help you seek justice for your damages.

How to Disclose Your Status

Disclosing your diagnosis is a smart first step to gaining the support you’ll need to live with HIV. When you are ready to have this talk with your support group, have HIV background information on the disease with you.

Some of your support group might not know about ART. Help them understand the facts and they may be less likely to react negatively.

Dealing With Shame or Stigma

HIV stigma refers to any negative attitudes towards people infected by HIV. There is a belief connected to HIV patients as being either irresponsible or promiscuous. The understandable reaction from HIV patients to this messaging is shame.

Another prevailing stigma is that HIV automatically leads to AIDS. The truth is, you can be infected with HIV without ever reaching an AIDS diagnosis.

AIDS is diagnosed if you have less than a 200 cd4 cell count. HIV patients do have compromised cd4 cell levels, but some will never reach these comparable levels that AIDS patients suffer from.

HIV and Discrimination

HIV discrimination means unjust treatment of an HIV patient based on their real or alleged HIV status. There is federal legislation in place to help prevent this type of discrimination. These laws include:

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA protects HIV patients from discrimination based on their disease. Under the ADA, HIV patients can’t be denied health benefits because of their diagnosis.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA)

HIPAA is a group of US laws that protects patient health records that doctors, health plans and hospitals use. These medical providers must have safeguards in place to protect your personal information and make sure they don’t disclose your information incorrectly.

Some examples of protected health records include the following:

Information that your doctor includes in your medical records
Any conversation your doctor has with other medical personnel about your treatment and
Information that your health insurance provider has in their digital files.

Supportive Services for Patients With HIV

Support services are core to helping patients as they learn to live with HIV. These services are especially helpful for those patients who don’t have adequate financial means for meeting life’s other demands that are complicated by HIV. Some of these other demands include:

Housing

Housing financial assistance is available to HIV patients from the federal Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA.) HOPWA funds can be used to pay for patient home mortgages or short-term rent. HIV patients can also use HOPWA funds to help pay for home utility costs as well.

The goal of HOPWA is to avoid homelessness for HIV patients and their families. HOPWA knows that helping HIV patients stay in their homes can increase their access to additional support services.

Health Insurance Assistance

Most HIV patients are unable to work because of their disease. As a result, they have limited funds to pay medical insurance premiums. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a law that was passed to help low-income Americans secure affordable health care insurance.

The ACA also has provisions that expand access to coverage for people living with HIV. ACA coverage will vary by state. It’s best to consult with your health care provider to get the coverage details available where you live.

Other Support Services

Support not only helps with housing and health care expenses but with other living costs as well. One federal program that helps with these other living costs is the Ryan White HIV/Aids program.

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS program provides essential support services for under-served, low-income patients with HIV. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS program works with local communities to provide essential support to over half a million people per year.

Some of these essential support costs covered include:

Childcare
Delivered home meals/food vouchers
Language interpretation services and
Medical transport

Next Steps

If your doctor has diagnosed you with HIV, begin planning your disclosure conversations with those you love the most. Check the US Center for Disease Control for all the answers to your HIV questions. These conversations are going to build the peer and family support you need from this day forward.

Just remember that shame or stigma doesn’t have to be your personal experience. Familiarize yourself with ADA and HIPPA to know where your civil rights are protected.

Don’t forget to check our video archive for more help on living with HIV. This disease doesn’t mean that death is impending tomorrow. Leverage these resources and you will have many more years left in this lifetime.

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