HIV Health MOT
Managing your HIV
• You have probably come across the term “viral load” before. It indicates the amount of HIV in your blood and should be regularly measured at your HIV clinic1.
• As there is no cure for HIV, an “undetectable viral load” is the current goal of HIV treatment. It means you have fewer than 50 copies per millilitre in your blood, which means your antiretroviral medications are working effectively1,2. Having an undetectable viral load in the laboratory doesn’t mean that the virus is gone from your body1. An undetectable viral load means your immune system can recover, stay strong and reduces the risk of passing on the virus1.
• Use the links below for more information on viral load, and don’t forget to speak to your doctor about yours.
• You might feel healthy right now, but HIV can damage the immune system and cause a range of illnesses3. Guidelines now recommend that everyone who has HIV can start treatment when they feel that the time is right. Starting treatment also reduces your viral load, which decreases your risk of passing on HIV.
• As a patient, you have the right to treatment which meets your needs and preferences4. All patients should be able to talk through their treatment options with their clinician in order to make treatment decisions together.
• Use the links below for more information on HIV treatment, and speak to your healthcare professional if you’re struggling to stick to your treatment or have any questions.
• From time to time we all need a little help and support. Living with an HIV diagnosis is not an easy task, and sometimes things can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re not able to turn to friends and family for support.
• Getting involved with a support group can be a great way to connect with people who face similar challenges — you may even help others on the way. A selection of local and national groups is listed below. You can also check with your local HIV clinic for nearby groups.
Click here for a list of support groups across the UK and Ireland: http://patient.info/support/aids-and-hiv-1208
If you prefer to speak to someone on the phone, you can always call the National Sexual Health Helpline on 0300 123 7123. It’s a confidential service where you can get advice about HIV and AIDS, sexual health, STDs, local services, clinics and support services. It’s free to call and is open from 9am-8pm Monday-Friday.
Researchers believe that HIV can speed up the ageing process3,6. This means that young people with HIV can have ‘older’ immune systems, leading to early development of diseases that would normally affect older people. These may include heart disease, some cancers, osteoporosis and disorders of the liver, kidneys and brain7-13.
Your healthcare professional will be aware of this, and should be testing you regularly for any associated conditions. Find out more on these tests and how HIV affects your health in the long term by clicking through the links below.
Make sure to also stop by our health page to read more about conditions that are associated with HIV.
• If you are over 40 years old, your healthcare professional can measure your bone mineral density (BMD) and do a test called FRAX (Fracture Risk Assessment Tool), which can tell you how high your chance is of breaking a bone. If you don’t have your BMD score you can still calculate your FRAX score here. Please note that the FRAX score can underestimate absolute fracture risk in people living with HIV, so often clinicians will tick the “secondary causes of osteoporosis” box in the assessment.
• Information on bone mineral changes http://i-base.info/guides/side/bone-mineral-changes
Managing your HIV
My viral load
Indicates the amount of HIV in my body fluids and should be regularly measured at my HIV clinic.
My HIV Treatment
As a patient, you have a right to treatment which meets your needs and preferences.
Getting involved with a support group can be a great way to connect with people who face similar challenges.
Exercise can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, as well as helping to strengthen your mental health by decreasing your chances of getting depression3.
Although having HIV doesn’t mean you have to follow a special diet, good nutrition can help to keep your body and immune system strong.
Anyone who has ever tried to stop smoking will know how hard it can be. However, there are fantastic support groups and a vast amount of information out there to help you stay on track.
The government recommends that both men and women shouldn’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week.
If you are over 40 years old, your healthcare professional can measure your bone mineral density (BMD) and do a test called FRAX (Fracture Risk Assessment Tool).
QRISK2 is a common test your doctor may use to work out your risk of having a heart attack or stroke over the next ten years.
The most common kidney tests you may hear about are eGFR and creatine clearance tests, which work out how well your kidneys are working to filter waste products in your blood.
HIV and Cancer
There are some links between certain cancers and HIV which you can discuss with your healthcare professional.
You can print this page and take it with you to your next appointment to act as a reminder for your discussions.
1. Aidsmap. Viral load factsheet. Available at: http://www.aidsmap.com/Viral-load/page/1044622/ [accessed April 2018]
2. Aidsmap. HIV lifecycle. Available at: http://www.aidsmap.com/pdf/HIV-lifecycle/page/1044602/design/fe30aa65-dc0f-4526-bbe9-fb7f285158a3 [accessed April 2018]
3. Deeks SG. Immune Dysfunction, Inflammation, and Accelerated Aging in Patients on Antiretroviral Therapy. Top HIV Med. 2009 Sep-Oct;17(4):118-23.
4. The NHS Constitution for England. Available from: www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-nhs-constitution-for-england (accessed April 2018)
5. Benefits of exercise. NHS Choices. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/whybeactive.aspx [accessed April 2018]
6. Effros RB et al. Workshop on HIV Infection and Aging: What Is Known and Future Research Directions. Clin Infect Dis. 2008 August 15; 47(4): 542–553.
7. Aidsmap. Chronic kidney disease and HIV factsheet. Available at: http://www.aidsmap.com/Chronic-kidney-disease-and-HIV/page/1045114/ [accessed April 2018]
8. Aidsmap. Cardiovascular disease factsheet. Available at: http://www.aidsmap.com/The-heart/page/1045105/ [accessed April 2018]
9. Aidsmap. Cognitive impairment and HIV factsheet. Available at: http://www.aidsmap.com/Cognitive-impairment-and-HIV/page/3135688/ [accessed April 2018]
10. Güerri-Fernández R et al. HIV infection, bone metabolism and fractures. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol.2014; 58(5):478-83.
11. Aidsmap. The liver factsheet. Available at http://www.aidsmap.com/The-liver/page/1045123/ [accessed April 2018]
12. Aidsmap. HIV, mental health & emotional wellbeing booklet. Available at http://www.aidsmap.com/HIV-mental-health-emotional-wellbeing/page/1321435/ [accessed April 2018]
13. Silverberg MJ et al. Cumulative Incidence of Cancer Among Persons With HIV in North America: A Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. 2015 Oct 6;163(7):507-18.
14. NHS Choices. Chronic Kidney Disease. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Kidney-disease-chronic/Pages/Introduction.aspx. [last accessed April 2018]
Living with HIV used to be a short hop.