Patient FAQs

What if I decide not to take medication?

If you have been advised to start medication for treatment of HIV infection, you should initiate it at the earliest. It is for your own benefit and also reduces the risk of transmission to your partner. Not initiating and adhering to the treatment will endanger your life along with your partner.

Should I take alternative therapy?

Alternative therapy may include homeopathy or ayurvedic medicine. If you are planning for some alternative therapy, please speak to your doctor for proper guidance.

What can I do about my body shape changes?

Body shape changes can be because of fat accumulation or fat loss (also called as lipohypertrophy / lipoatrophy). You can have fat accumulation or fat loss or even both when started on antiretroviral therapy.

Loss of fat in the arms, legs and buttocks make you look thin with prominent veins. Loss of fat on the cheeks will make you look more sick than you are.

Fat accumulation can happen at unusual places like upper back, around the neck, in the breast tissue or in the abdomen.

These effects are reduced to a considerable extent with newer antiretroviral drugs.

Diet and exercise can help you manage the fat accumulation in the body.

Am I at higher risk of heart disease?

Studies have shown that HIV positive people are at a higher risk of heart disease as compared to general population. The increased risk is partly due to the effects of virus itself and to some extent to the drugs.

The risk of having a heart disease with the antiretroviral therapy is minimal as compared to the risk of dying of AIDS if you don’t take medication. In addition, the risk from ART may be small in comparison to the effects of other risk factors that can be controlled such a high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity.

Following are the things you can do:

  • Stop smoking
  • Monitor your blood pressure regularly and keep it under control.
  • Check your cholesterol levels, take appropriate treatment if it’s high.
  • Keep your blood sugar in control
  • Keep a watch on your weight

Can my liver get affected? How can I protect it?

All drugs can have beneficial as well as undesirable effects on different organs of the body. Sometimes, the liver can get affected due to the drugs. Here are some tips to lower the risk:

  • Limit alcohol consumption after consulting your doctor.
  • Get your liver enzymes checked on a regular basis.
  • If you are taking treatment for Hepatitis B, don’t stop the treatment. Stopping the treatment can cause flare-up.

Is there any risk to my bones and joints?

Bone and joint problem are being recognized as a complication of HIV treatment. However, they are not seen in every patient.

Please consult your doctor if you have any joint pain or restriction of movement.

What are opportunistic infections?

In normal healthy individual, there are certain pathogens which can enter our body but are not able to cause disease due to the strong defense mechanisms.

However, in conditions, where the body defense mechanism is compromised and becomes weak as in HIV infection, the pathogen (virus/bacteria/fungus or a parasite) takes the advantage of the weak body defense mechanism to establish itself and leads to infection. These are called as opportunistic infections e.g. Toxoplasmosis of brain, C.M.V. infection, diarrheas, tuberculosis etc.

How do I prevent or treat TB?

The risk of contracting tuberculosis infection is much higher in patients with HIV infection and lower CD4 count.

You can get TB infection through close contact with someone who has active TB and is coughing.

Symptoms of TB infection are fever, night sweats, cough with or without sputum production with or without blood. If you develop any such symptoms, please go to your doctor for check-up.

When do I need prophylaxis for OIs?

Prophylaxis means prevention. In HIV infection, prophylaxis is usually given to prevent development of opportunistic infection.

If your viral load is undetectable and CD4 count is high, you need not worry. But, if your CD4 count is low, you will need prophylaxis to prevent development of opportunistic infection.

Your doctor will guide you on the prophylaxis for opportunistic infections.

Can HIV cause cancer?

People with HIV infection are at an increased risk of cancer although the risk is much lower as compared to the opportunistic infections. Therefore, once you are diagnosed, you should adhere to the treatment to reduce the risk of other conditions.

Will HIV infection make me age faster?

It has been observed that there is “accelerated aging” in patients with HIV infection. This simply means that some of the diseases of aging are being seen at younger age in a person with HIV infection. For eg: heart disease, decreased bone density, changes in brain function, risk of developing cancer. Therefore, once you are diagnosed, you should adhere to the treatment to reduce the risk of other conditions.

I am getting some white patches in my mouth. What’s wrong with my mouth?

The most common cause of mouth and throat problems in a person infected with HIV is oropharyngeal candidiasis, a fungal infection. However, there could be other reasons as well.

Please consult your doctor for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

What can I do about nausea and diarrhea?

In a HIV-positive patient, many of the medications can cause nausea and diarrhea. Nausea may improve with time or by taking the pills with food. Your doctor can also prescribe you certain medication if it is not improving.

Diarrhea can too be caused by medication. The best way to manage diarrhea is to have fiber in the diet. There are some infections which can cause diarrhea.

If you have developed nausea or diarrhea please consult your doctor for the same.

Why am I losing weight?

In the past, weight loss was common in people with HIV infection. Currently, with the development of antiretroviral therapy, the scenario has changed and weight loss is less common now.

Weight loss is more likely to occur in a patient not on treatment.

Nausea, vomit, diarrhea can limit the food intake and lead to weight loss.

T.B., Cancers and HIV are other common causes of weight loss.

Can HIV affect my nervous system?

Untreated HIV infection or stopping the treatment is bad for the nervous system. The virus can get into the brain and spinal fluid and can lead to lot of complications like memory loss, seizures, unsteady gait, muscle weakness etc. The way to tackle this is to take proper ART and adhere to the treatment.

I am HIV positive and what if I want to get pregnant?

If you are on treatment or not, you need to discuss this with your doctor and plan accordingly.

You can become pregnant when you have HIV infection. Pregnancy should be carefully planned and closely monitored when you have HIV infection. You will have to take the medication throughout your pregnancy to prevent the transmission of infection to your child and continue it post delivery.

On delivery, your baby will also be given medication to prevent the HIV infection.

How can I father a child with an HIV-negative women? OR My husband is HIV positive and I am HIV negative. Can I conceive?

Conception is more difficult when you are HIV positive while your wife is negative as the risk of HIV transmission is high to uninfected wife and new born baby.

Most important is your viral load should be undetectable, you should properly adhere to the treatment. Still there are high risk of transmission as semen can have virus, even if it is not detectable in the blood. Sperm wash for infected male partner, ART for infected partner and PrEP for an uninfected partner will help lot.

Please speak to your doctor for planning a child. There are certain techniques like Timed Assisted Reproduction Techniques available which can help you to plan for it. These are harm reduction methods.

What if my child is HIV-positive?

Children usually get the infection from the mother during pregnancy or during breastfeeding. Fortunately, with the routine testing for the infection and the treatment of the infection in pregnancy, the mother-to- child transmission has reduced. transmission rate is reduced to less than 2%.

Without treatment, many HIV-positive babies can get sick within the first year of life. More often, they may do well for several years, not becoming ill.

There are treatment options available for children similar to adult population.

HIV positive adolescents can be challenging due to issues such as treatment adherence, stigma, discrimination, disclosure, depression, and most importantly prevention of further transmission.

Please discuss with your doctor for any concerns related to your child.

How and when should I disclose my HIV status to partner?

As soon as you are aware about your HIV status, it becomes your responsibility to make your partner aware about it.

You will have to reveal your HIV status to partners and protecting those who are negative from becoming infected.

Disclosure becomes especially important when you are starting a new relationship.

How can I have safe sex?

There is at least some risk involved in the sexual activity. The risk is reduced if the viral load is undetectable. However, it is possible to have detectable virus in semen or vaginal fluid even when it is undetectable in blood.

Being on ART will probably help in reducing the transmission.

  • Anal and vaginal intercourse: An intact condom can reduce the risk of transmission if it does not break.
  • Oral sex: HIV can be transmitted by getting a positive person’s semen, vaginal fluid, or menstrual blood in the mouth. The risk is higher if the gums are damaged.
  • Mutual masturbation: this is very safe as long as you don’t have open cuts or sores on the hands.

Should I take vitamins or supplements?

A healthy diet should provide you all the nutrients you need. Please consult your doctor before you start taking any vitamins or supplementation.

Can I drink alcohol?

Excessive alcohol consumption is bad for every organ of your body, especially liver. It also increases the risk of other problems like neuropathy, heart disease etc.

In addition, under the influence of alcohol, adherence to the medication could be an issue.

Can I travel?

Yes you can, you just need to take care of some things. Make sure you carry the medication for the number of days you are travelling. Remember to take the medication daily and you don’t miss any dose. It’s a good idea to consult your doctor before you travel and visit him once you are back for follow-up.

Can I exercise?

Yes you can, and you should as it is healthy way to live. It’s important to maintain your overall health.

I am HIV positive and I am on HIV medication with my viral load under control. Can I have relation with multiple partners?

Being HIV positive, you have the responsibility towards yourself and others.

You will have to reveal your HIV status to your partners so that they will not get infected if their status is negative and you can practice safe sex.

If your partners are HIV positive, then you still will have to reveal your status and encourage your partners for safe sex so that they don’t transmit the infection to others.

I am HIV negative and my partner is HIV positive. Do I need to take any medication to avoid transmission of infection?

Yes, there are some options available. Most importantly, inculcate the habit of practicing safe sex at all times. Motivate your partner for treatment adherence as this will reduce the risk of transmission.

Please consult your doctor for appropriate guidance before you take any medication.

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