Health and Treatments
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4.1 Monitoring your health
4.2 Treatment
4.3 Complementary therapies

4.1 Monitoring your health

Living with HIV usually means taking a new approach to your healthcare. HIV can be very unpredictable. Some people experience no symptoms for many years, while other people have long periods of good health with occasional periods of illness. A few may feel unwell most of the time.

One thing that is clear – from the moment HIV enters your bloodstream it is multiplying and damaging your immune system.

An important part of staying well is to avoid infections and delay the development of any illnesses associated with HIV/AIDS.

One of the best ways to do this is to monitor your health.

Monitoring your health means having regular visits with your doctor for general health check-ups and blood tests. Regular visits to the dentist are also recommended to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

People with HIV/AIDS are more likely to develop a number of illnesses that people with a strong immune system won't get. These are called opportunistic infections and can make you very sick. One example of these is pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a form of pneumonia that rarely affects people with a healthy immune system.

Your doctor can prescribe medication to help prevent some of these serious illnesses from developing. This is called taking prophylaxis.

Having regular blood tests is also very important, because your doctor can then see how much damage has occurred to your immune system.

Two common blood tests are:

Viral load test
Viral load is the amount of HIV that is in your blood. HIV is constantly replicating and spilling new copies of itself into the bloodstream. By testing the amount of HIV present in a certain quantity of blood your doctor can estimate just how quickly the virus is making these copies.

The higher the viral load, the more quickly the HIV is multiplying, and the more likely your immune system is being damaged.

CD4 count

CD4 cells are the cells in your immune system that HIV enters and eventually destroys. By measuring the number of CD4 cells present in your blood, your doctor will I have a better understanding of how well your body is fighting HIV.

These two tests are usually taken at the same time. Your doctor will compare the results from these tests to work out how healthy your immune system is. Over time, these tests will provide you with a picture of your immune system and how HIV is progressing in your body.

In order for this picture to be accurate your doctor will probably recommend that you have these tests regularly 4 to 6 times per year.

Monitor your health by:
• visiting your doctor regularly for routine health check-ups;
• becoming familiar with your health and your body;
• being aware of any changes that could mean your immune system is not working well; and maintaining good dental care.

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