Your nutritional plan for living with HIV. 

Know what to eat to ensure good nutrition. We share some tips of healthy eating to support your immune system when you are living with HIV.

What a 'good' nutritional plan looks like, when coping with HIV.

Three rules to live by:

1. Know what to eat.

A well-balanced diet is exactly that: well-balanced. Good nutrition doesn’t mean you need to deprive yourself or remove any food groups from your meals. Healthy eating involves the right balance of food groups in the correct portions on a daily basis. Arrange your dinner plate this way:

  • 1/2 your plate should be filled with fresh fruit and/or vegetables. These provide the vitamins and minerals required to build, grow, and sustain your body’s various systems.
  • 1/4 should have lean protein, which doesn’t necessarily mean meat. Protein includes cultured yoghurt, beans, lentils, chickpeas and a variety of other pulses and legumes.
  • Your last 1/4 needs to provide slow-burning energy, in the form of low glycaemic index (low GI) grains and starches. Brown rice, brown pasta, butternut squash, carrots, potatoes can be used interchangeably.
  • Challenge yourself to have at least one glass of water with your dinner. Sip on it slowly before, during and after your meal to enhance your body’s digestion.

2. Stay hydrated, the right way. 

Adjust the amount of water you drink, in accordance with what you’re doing on the day. Increased physical activity needs increased rehydration effort.

3. Know when to eat. 

Your ARV treatment and healthy eating go hand in hand. Even HIV negative individuals need to eat at the right times for optimum health. Most people have busy mornings, often eating unhealthy breakfasts or skipping the meal altogether. This is damaging to your health because it doesn’t kickstart your body’s metabolism.

The purpose of breaking your overnight fast is to let your body know that it needs to begin burning energy. If you don’t send that message by eating slow-burning carbohydrates with some protein, your body has no clue that digestion needs to kick in. Because of that, weight gain is a major risk, and it brings other issues along with it, not to mention that if you take medication in the morning that won’t be effectively absorbed into your system either.

Make the effort to have something to eat every morning as part of your routine. If you rush out to work, prepare smoothies in advance using plain Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit. You can batch these into portions which are easy to grab on your way out every morning. It’s a great way to get your five fresh fruit and vegetables daily.

Remember that effective nutrition helps your body absorb nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and your ARVs. Ask your doctor about exactly how your medicine should be taken, then make sure you follow instructions. The timing becomes even more critical if you’re placed onto a co-infection programme.

Understand more about HIV and how to live a happy, healthy life when you are HIV-positive. 

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We all have questions.

Below are some of the answers to the most common questions around HIV. 

What is usually the first sign of HIV?

After becoming 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, 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, to 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 2 to 4 weeks after infection and can last about 1 to 2 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. PMTCT has been highly effective in reducing the HIV transmission risk to under 1%.

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