UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND, JOHANNESBURG

Treatment and Care

Antiretroviral Therapy (ART)

HIV is not curable but can be treated using medical drugs collectively known as antiretrovirals. The availability of and access to medication has almost positioned HIV as a chronic illness. If the disease is managed well, the individual’s life expectancy becomes much greater. The medication works by targeting different parts of the HIV life cycle. When used correctly it can be effective in keeping the viral load low. Correct use of the medication refers to adherence, which simply means that once prescribed they should be taken daily and in accordance with the prescription; ie. dosage and times, etc.  Antiretroviral therapy works best when it is complimented by a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude. Such a response to HIV is known to be successful in enabling an HIV positive individual to remain healthy and live a productive life for many years. To increase their efficacy, antiretrovirals are taken in combination in what is called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). HAART is effective because HIV can develop resistance to a single drug very quickly. By using a combination of drugs the treatment can be effective for a longer period of time. 

Choosing a Healthy Lifestyle

Having contracted HIV, individuals are encouraged to assess their lifestyles a lot more closely.  Living healthy requires more concerted efforts and conscious decision making regarding issues like nutrition, exercise and attitudes, etc.  Below are some recommendations to consider:

Physical

  • Adherence to Medication: If you are on antiretroviral treatment; take your medication as prescribed. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any side effects.
  • Eat Healthy: this does not mean expensive eating but simply that you limit the amount of Junk food, canned foods, fat and sugar, etc and that you eat a more balanced diet, fish, meat , eggs, fresh vegetables and fruit, etc.
  • Drink lots of water
  • Always attend to symptoms of sicknesses as soon as possible
  • Where possible, avoid contact with people who are clearly sick
  • Exercise regularly

Emotional

  • Support from loved ones is important – don’t isolate yourself.
  • Choose people you can trust to share your thoughts and concerns and if you feel safe to even disclose your status – but not until YOU are ready and feel safe to do so.
  • Speak to a trained counsellor
  • Allow yourself to feel, don’t be too critical of your emotions, If things are not okay, say so, don’t pretend that all is fine.

Behaviour

  • Avoid using substances like alcohol, cigarettes and banned drugs
  • Take immune boosters and vitamins when needed
  • Regular medical checks and monitoring of your CD4 count
  • If you are having sexual intercourse; use a condom, be faithful to your partner and consider disclosure in your relationship. Protect yourself from re-infection.
  • Encourage your partner to also test for HIV.

 

Cognitive

  • Maintain a positive outlook on life. Every breath you have, is an opportunity to live, to love and to share.
  • Do not give up on your future; there is no certain timeframe for life even if you are HIV positive.
  • Set yourself realistic goals and act on them.
  • Have a healthy way of dealing with stress, eg. Listen to music, talk to a counselor, etc

For more information click here to download the Metropolitan Positive Health Booklet