WHAT DOES ‘HEALTHY’ MEAN TO YOU?

There was a time when HIV care focused solely on suppressing the virus. As HIV care has evolved, ensuring a good quality of life for people living with HIV is now just as important as effective HIV treatment and care.

So what does ‘healthy’ mean to you? A good place to start is to think about how HIV impacts your life now, how you feel about yourself and your future. The next step is to chat about it with your healthcare team and together set some goals to help you get where you want to be.

MENTAL HEALTH & HIV

If there’s one topic that’s almost as difficult to discuss as HIV, it’s mental health. Yet, for a person living with HIV, looking after your emotional wellbeing is just as important for your overall health as taking your medication on time.

If you are struggling right now, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

One in three people living with HIV will experience some symptoms of depression during their lifetime. Issues with anxiety, self-image and insomnia are also common too.4 It’s okay to not feel okay and if your mental or emotional wellbeing isn’t in a good place, there are lots of support groups and people who can help you to improve your quality of life with HIV.

Opening up about what’s going on with you isn’t always easy, but it can be the first step to feeling better.

"Just saying it out loud to another human helped immensely."

There’s a lot to deal with

HIV and mental health are very much intertwined – this can be a lot to deal with.

Whether it’s the shock of diagnosis, keeping your status a secret, negotiating sex and relationships, dealing with rejection by friends and family, stigma, isolation or even side effects from medications – it can all impact your emotional wellbeing.5

Poor mental health can have many consequences too. Depression and anxiety can have a major impact on your work and social life. It can also affect adherence to HIV medication.5

In fact, many people state that taking their pill(s) every day reminds them of their status. Nearly a third (29%) of people living with HIV who have poor mental health said they’d missed several doses of medication in the past month.5

If you find taking your treatment to be a difficult part of your day, or if your mental health has impacted your treatment adherence, it’s important that you tell your doctor. That’s the only way they can help you. You can also find useful resources, advice, and support in our tips to stay on track.

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SETTING YOUR HEALTH GOALS

Having a goal to work towards is a good way to keep your HIV health moving in the right direction and make managing your HIV condition a little easier. It doesn’t matter if your goals are big or small, simply having one can help.

As the main goal of HIV treatment, achieving and maintaining an undetectable viral load is a great start. However, what else would you like to achieve for a good quality of life with HIV?


I’d like to feel less worried about side effects


I want to feel less anxious about taking my medication on time


I want to be more involved in decisions about my care


I want to feel comfortable talking to my doctor about personal issues


I want to stay up to date with the latest treatment options

“I think one of the best things that any of us can do for our own health and mental health, is to be open and honest with our clinic team.”

Think about your goals for both the near future and longer term. Once you’ve shared them with your healthcare team, together you can start working to make sure you get there:6

Health goals

Remember, your HIV treatment is there to keep you healthy. If you find taking your medication is impacting your life by stopping you doing the things you want to do, it’s important to let your healthcare team know so together you can find a treatment that works better for you.

You can read more about finding the right treatment for you on our You and your HIV treatment page.

Health goals go beyond treatment

Living a healthy life with HIV is about more than treatment, and so are your health goals. From dealing with stress better to looking for love, any goal that’s important to you, your health or your wellbeing is worth sharing. Talking about your goals and ambitions with your healthcare team will mean you’ll have their support and encouragement to help you achieve them.

Here are some examples of health goals that go beyond HIV care and treatment:


I want to be more open about my status


I’d like to connect with my local HIV community group


I’d like to start dating again


I want to quit smoking


I’d like to feel better about myself


I’d like to have more energy to play with my kids


I’d like to get back to work

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What does ‘healthy’ mean to you?
What does ‘healthy’ mean to you?

WHAT'S NEXT ?

Understanding the different types of HIV medications available to you can make it easier to talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

Having a long, healthy life should be achievable for most people living with HIV today.1 This may mean that your health and treatment needs change over time.

Taking your medicine as prescribed is the best way to keep on track. Good adherence helps you stay undetectable and maintain your general health.2,3

References:

  1. National Health Service. HIV and AIDS. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiv-and-aids/. [Accessed September 2021].
  2. Avert. What is an undetectable viral load? Available at: https://www.avert.org/living-with-hiv/antiretroviral-treatment/what-does-undetectable-mean. [Accessed September 2021].
  3. Schaecher KL. Am J Manag Care. 2013;19:S231–S237.
  4. Together We Can. Mental Health. Available at: https://www.tht.org.uk/hiv-and-sexual-health/living-well-hiv/mental-health. [Accessed September 2021].
  5. Uthman OA, et al. Curr HIV/AIDS Rep. 2014;11: 291–307.
  6. The HOPE Survey; 2016 conducted by Nielson on behalf of ViiV Healthcare.

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