Living with HIV

‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is no longer a death sentence but a period of hopeful living.’- Straits Time, Singapore.

Despite the association of HIV with fear, stigma, discrimination, and other repercussions, it is a condition that many are able to live a normal and quality life with the proper taking of HIV medication.

Healthy Living

Aside from taking your HIV medication regularly, you should lead a healthy general lifestyle such as:

  • Eating a healthy balanced diet every day
  • Exercise regularly
  • Quit smoking

You should ensure your flu vaccination up to date yearly, and you are recommended pneumococcal vaccination.

Get Support for your mental well-being

Being diagnosed with HIV can be a life-changing event. It can cause tremendous emotional distress. One may commonly feel anger, hopeless, depress and anxious. You are not alone. Seek help, speak to your doctor. Your doctor will address your concerns and expectations. You may be linked up with trained counsellor or psychologist to give you further emotional support.

Some people find it helpful to speak to others who have HIV via support groups or internet chatroom.

Tell my partner or former partners about my HIV

It is common to feel angry, upset, or even embarrassed about disclosing HIV health status to your current or former partners. Having said that, it is important to inform your current sexual partner or any sexual partners regarding your HIV status, so that they will get tested and treated. Untreated HIV can lead to serious illness (AIDS) and death.

If you have any concerns, you may speak to your doctor for further advice. Your doctor will advise you to disclose your status to your future partners and how you can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.

Do I need to tell my employer?

No, there is no legal obligation to inform your employer of your HIV status, unless you are at a frontline job that performs invasive procedures.

HIV and Pregnancy

If you are pregnant:

  • There is HIV treatment to reduce the risk of a pregnant lady with HIV transmitting the infection to her baby. Without treatment, there is 25% of your baby will become infected with HIV. However, with treatment, the risk is less than 1%.
  • With advances of treatment, there is no increased risk of transmitting HIV to your baby with normal delivery. The risks and benefits of delivery method will be discussed further with you with your obstetrician.
  • Breastfeeding should be avoided as the virus can transmit through breast milk.

If you are planning a pregnancy:

  • If you or your partner has HIV, there are treatment options to allow you to conceive a child safely.
  • You should contact your obstetrician/ HIV clinic if found pregnant as some HIV medication may not be suitable for your baby, and you may need to change your treatment plan. There may be additional medication required to prevent your baby from contracting HIV.

Opportunistic Infections

If your immune system is damaged by HIV virus, you are at risk of developing certain infections that a person with an intact immune system will not. The name opportunistic infections are termed to infections that occur when your immune system is very weakened.

The four main types of opportunistic infections are:

  • Bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis or Pneumonia
  • Viral infections, such as Shingles
  • Fungal infections, such as Oral Thrush (Candida infection), Pneumocystis Pneumonia
  • Parasitic infections, such as Toxoplasmosis

People with HIV are also at risk of certain cancer such as cancer of the lymphatic system (Lymphoma), Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Regular follow up with your doctor and compliant to your HIV medicine is important to maintain your immune system and prevent opportunistic infections.

Take care, stay well.

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