You’ve lived with HIV for one year: what happens now?

You’ve made it. You have been diagnosed as HIV-positive for one year, and you are well into your HIV treatment programme.
Last modified on 12-11-2020

living with HIV for one year

How do you feel one year after being diagnosed with HIV?

You’ve made it. You have been diagnosed as HIV-positive for one year, and you are well into your HIV treatment programme. You have adjusted to being HIV-positive for one year, and you have undergone a tremendous amount of change in a short space of time. You have come out stronger, wiser, and healthier than you expected to be.

Well done! We hope you are taking a moment today, to celebrate and acknowledge your journey with HIV so far, and that you know how well you have adjusted to being diagnosed as HIV-positive.

Is your HIV viral load ‘undetectable’ yet?

The aim of your HIV treatment programme is to ensure that the level of HIV in your blood reaches such a low point, that it would be considered “undetectable”. Consistently sticking to your ARV treatment programme, and being guided by your doctor or clinic sister is the right thing to do, as you continue your journey with HIV. You’ve now been diagnosed HIV-positive for one year, so you will be well adjusted to your ARV treatment.

Your body, mind, and lifestyle, would have shifted to a place of somewhat normality. Moreover, by now, thanks to adhering to your HIV treatment programme, you will either be considered “undetectable” or be close to the “undetectable HIV” range.

What’s the best way to reflect on your life with HIV?

You’ve accomplished so much since you were first diagnosed with HIV. You are no longer thinking about surviving the first day, first week, first month, or first year of living with HIV. Instead, you’re building on your strength; you’re armed with knowledge and you know it’s time to plan for the future.

If you have kept a journal then maybe you’d like to flick back through it, and reflect on all the strength you’ve built over the recent year. You’ve probably had some pretty dark moments, and that’s okay. What matters is that right here, right now, you have conquered your first year of being HIV-positive, and this sets the tone for the rest of your life.

With everything you’ve learned, you may even be in a better position to help others through their own journeys at this point. Always remember that the life expectancy of an HIV-positive person is now almost exactly the same as an HIV-negative person, when ARV treatment is adhered to, and good nutritional and exercise plans are integrated into daily life.

What’s an HIV-responsible lifestyle?

As you’ve learnt throughout this journey, you know that living with HIV is a holistic experience. This means that you’ve had to change your:

  • Eating habits: Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet helps to support your HIV treatment programme, and ensures that you can live a long, happy, and healthy life. By now, you may be an expert on eating well. Good on you!
  • Exercise routine: Regular exercise is another component of living well with HIV. By now you should be well into a stimulating and rewarding exercise routine, and feeling physically fitter than you did before.
  • Daily routine: Remembering to take your ARV treatment at the same time, every day, is probably no longer the challenge it once was. Maybe you’ve adapted to using mobile apps and calendar reminders to remember to take your HIV medication, and it’s now as easy a part of your day as brushing your teeth.
  • Monthly routine: You’re used to setting and sticking to your monthly checkup appointments with your doctor or clinic team. Your monthly calendar reminders to pop in, get your health checked, and obtain your next batch of ARV medication are no longer so scary to look at, when you glance at your calendar.
  • Relationships: If you’ve not yet been able to disclose your HIV status to your friends and family, we hope you’re feeling stronger and more confident in your ability to do so now. Seek out support from your counsellor, a support group, or other people who you feel you can confide in. Although it’s not a legal requirement, it’s encouraged and strongly recommended that you discuss your HIV status with your partner, spouse, or anyone you are having sex with.

If you have disclosed your HIV status to your family and friends, we hope that you’re being supported by their love and understanding, and that they too have begun the process of learning more about HIV, and the impact of your HIV status on life, moving forward.

How do you maintain an HIV-responsible lifestyle, going forward?

Keep following your doctor or clinic team’s guidance on all things when it comes to your physical wellbeing. Take your ARVs, eat fresh nutritious meals and make sure that you’re getting enough physical activity in.

Understand more about HIV and how to live a happy, healthy life with a positive status.

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Can you have a baby after living with HIV for one year?

If you’re thinking about having your first, or another, baby, it’s important to consult your doctor or clinic team first. Having a baby while HIV-positive is possible, but it must be done under strict guidance, so as to prevent the transmission of HIV between partners, and from mother to child. Ask your doctor or clinic team for advice on this, before you begin planning to add another member to your family, click here to read more about HIV and pregnancy on our dedicated HIV website.

How to plan a successful future for your family:

It’s time to start planning for that happy, healthy future you’ve been working towards. Planning for the future, beyond your first year of living with HIV, is actually easier than all the adjustments you have to make since you were diagnosed as HIV-positive. Isn’t that a relief?

Will HIV affect the way you manage your finances?

It can. If you remember, at both the six-month and nine-month milestones of living with HIV, we started to discuss how this may happen and what to start thinking about, in response to that reality. It’s okay if you felt overwhelmed or weren’t sure where to start, but it’s easy to go back and recap at any time.

Doing the research can take some time, so consider each article you read or video you watch to be progress. Getting quotes can be free, like it is for our specialised HIV life cover, so you get the chance to write down all the information you collect, until you’re ready to act on your decisions. As you settle into your rhythm again, it may also feel odd to no longer be stuck in what’s referred to as ‘survival mode’, but take this as the positive it truly is.

When should your HIV-responsible financial plan be in place?

Everyone has a unique context, including you, and anything can happen between the time you put together a plan, and the time that comes to act on it. If you’ve been using our support journey, you would have started thinking about all the aspects related to your financial house, by now, but it’s also okay if you haven’t yet started and you want to try. Here, at the one-year milestone of living with HIV is a great time to start planning for the financial adjustments you may need to make.

We recommend:

  • Chatting to your financial advisor about your savings: You may have had to change your financial goals, or adjust your annual savings plan, during your first year of living with HIV. But, now’s a good time to reassess your financial standing and figure out new financial goals.
  • Finding out about life insurance: Life cover is hugely important for you, and yes, it is possible to get life insurance when you’re HIV-positive. In fact, that’s what we do at AllLife: offer people living with HIV up to R10 million life insurance, from the very first day you pay your very first premium.
  • Consider your financial timing: The simple price difference between buying a takeaway coffee when you first started work, and buying one today on your way to the office is…remarkable. It’s the same for life insurance: your life insurance premium will never be priced the same as it is right now.

AllLife is here for you at any time of day or night.

It may be the last article in our dedicated one-year HIV support journey, but this doesn’t have to be the last time you visit our website. There is still so much to learn from our dedicated HIV website, especially the facts and lifestyle sections. You can drop by any time of day or night, and if you are or you decide to become an AllLife client, our 24hr Health Helpline is also available for you to rely on.

We’re so proud of you for choosing to seek out information and support, and for never giving up on yourself the people you love, who depend on you every day. You’re going to become stronger, mentally, emotionally and physically, as long as you keep taking your ARVs and practicing the techniques we’ve taught you for healthy living, with HIV. If you want regular reminders and tips for conquering your HIV journey, going forward, please add our AllLife page to your list of favourites on Facebook, and add your comments to the posts so we can share more of what’s useful to you.

Sources:

AIDSInfo. 2019. When To Start Antiretroviral Therapy. [online] Available at: https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/understanding-hiv-aids/fact-sheets/21/52/when-to-start-antiretroviral-therapy [Accessed 30 October 2020].

Avert.org. 2019. Antiretroviral Treatment For Children Living With HIV. [online] Available at: https://www.avert.org/living-with-hiv/treatment-children [Accessed 30 October 2020].

Avert.org. 2019. What Does Undetectable Mean? [online] Available at: https://www.avert.org/living-with-hiv/antiretroviral-treatment/what-does-undetectable-mean [Accessed 30 October 2020].

Carter, Alan. Healthline. The Cost of HIV Treatment. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/cost-of-treatment [Accessed 30 October 2020].

CDC.gov. 2019. HIV Treatment. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/livingwithhiv/treatment.html [Accessed 30 October 2020].

Healthline. HIV By The Numbers. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/facts-statistics-infographic [Accessed 30 October 2020].

HIV.gov. 2019. Taking Your HIV Medication Every Day. [online] Available at: https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/staying-in-hiv-care/hiv-treatment/taking-your-hiv-medications-every-day [Accessed 30 October 2020].

Massey, David L. Healthline. 5 Things I Learned During My First Year Living With HIV. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv/things-learned-first-year [Accessed 30 October 2020].

POZ.Com. 2018. Starting HIV Treatment. [online] Available at: https://www.poz.com/basics/hiv-basics/starting-hiv-treatment [Accessed 30 October 2020].

We all have questions.

Below are some of the answers to the most common questions that you need to know.

What is usually the first sign of HIV?

After getting infected with HIV, most patients only experience moderate flu-like symptoms. Typically, the illness is sudden in onset and is characterised by fever, swelling of the lymph glands, a measles-like rash all over the body and ulcers in the mouth and sometimes on the genitalia.

What are the 4 stages of HIV?

  • Stage 1: Infection – Exposure to infected bodily fluids.
  • Stage 2: Asymptomatic – HIV quickly spreads and the patient becomes seropositive for HIV antibodies.
  • Stage 3: Symptomatic – The immune system is now engaged in a constant battle with the rapidly replicating virus.
  • Stage 4: AIDS – At this stage, the patient’s CD4+ count is 200 cells per mm3 or less.

How soon can HIV be detected by a blood test?

No test can detect HIV immediately after infection. The time between initial infection and a detectable viral load is called the window period. It can take anywhere from 2-12 weeks to after exposure detect whether you are HIV-positive or not, depending on which testing method is used.

How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV?

Following initial infection, there is a period of intense, unchecked viral replication that occurs. It usually takes two to four weeks after infection and can last about one to two weeks, after which there tends to be a slight recovery, and the infected individual is considered to be seropositive for HIV antibodies.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted from one person to another through the exchange of body fluids. The main method of transmission in South Africa is through unprotected sexual activity.

Does HIV test affect life insurance?

Being HIV-positive can affect standard life insurance policies, particularly if your status changes from HIV-negative to HIV-positive within a particular age range. That’s why AllLife covers all lives. Your HIV status doesn’t prevent you from getting cover with us.

Can HIV-positive women have children?

Yes, HIV-positive women can enjoy healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy HIV-negative babies. Through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme has been highly effective in reducing transmission risk to under 1%.

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