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Living a healthy life with HIV

The African continent has been greatly affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. An estimated 7.7 million, or 14% of the population, are living with HIV in South Africa. The virus is most prevalent in the ages 15-24 years, and women make up 63% of new infections. However, a great deal is now known about how to treat and deal with the virus. The result is that infected people can reduce their risk of developing AIDS. Discover how to live a healthy life if you have received an HIV positive diagnosis with these insights from Bloom Financial Services and their trusted medical partner, Momentum Health4Me. 

What is HIV and how does it differ from AIDS?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a condition that affects your immune system, which can, in turn, cause you to develop infections that your body cannot combat effectively. Thus, it is HIV that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), if it is left untreated. This is because the HIV virus will destroy your immune system or CD4 cells, leading to serious infections. However, there are effective treatment plans, covered by health insurance plans with an HIV benefit, which can ensure the continued good health and well-being of those living with HIV. 

What is the importance of antiretroviral treatment?

Given the right treatment, people who are HIV positive can live a long and fulfilling life while managing their chronic condition. In fact, a study by Lancet reveals that the life expectancy of those living with HIV is now significantly longer than it was 20 years ago, provided they’re taking the correct antiretroviral medication (ARVs). This is because there is no cure for HIV so it’s important to start treatment as soon as you’ve been diagnosed. 

Antiretroviral therapy is the treatment plan for HIV. The plan significantly reduces the progression of the virus by lowering the viral load in your body, which will reduce the risk of infections and transmission of the virus to others. This medical treatment plan can be covered by your health insurance provided it is included in your range of benefits. A typical ARV plan will involve several different types of medication, which you will need to take at the same time, every day, for the rest of your life. Even if you’re feeling better, it’s important that you remain diligent and take the medication as prescribed. 

Dating and sexual relations with HIV: what you need to know

It’s common knowledge that HIV is spread through unprotected vaginal and anal sex. However, people who are living with HIV can still lead active love lives and can continue dating and even have sexual relations provided they’re taking the right precautions. Firstly, if you’re HIV positive, you need to tell your partner about your HIV status so you can both make informed decisions about your physical relationship. Antiretroviral treatment will help reduce the risk of infecting your partner. In addition to the ARVs, the HIV negative partner can take a medication called PrEP, which can protect them from contracting HIV during sexual intercourse.

Living a healthy lifestyle with HIV: diet and exercise

Maintain a healthy lifestyle if you’re HIV positive. While there is no specific diet for HIV, experts recommend following a nutritious and balanced diet that includes all the major food groups. This is because those people living with HIV often experience weight loss, which can make them more susceptible to infections. It’s recommended to include the following in your diet:

  • Limited amounts of lean protein, like fish and eggs
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Starchy carbohydrates, like brown rice and whole grains
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Healthy fats, like avocado and nuts

If you’re unsure about what you should be eating, we strongly advise that you visit a nutritionist or dietician so you can get a meal plan. It’s always good to keep moving and maintain a healthy fitness level as this helps reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions, like diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It’s no different for those who are HIV positive. Some people living with HIV do experience muscle loss so it’s recommended to try strengthening activities, like: 

  1. Resistance or strength training at least twice per week. This type of weight training focuses on developing the size and strength of the skeletal muscles. Pay special attention to working on your arms, legs, hips, abdominal muscles, chest and shoulders. 
  2. Flexibility training. This is a physical activity that focuses on stretching out the muscles to improve tone, which you can do in a yoga or pilates class.

It’s also recommended to engage in at least two and half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. You can do this by going for a bike ride or swimming. However, before engaging in any exercise activity, it would be wise to consult your doctor in order to determine what your limitations are and what sort of physical activities you should avoid.

Take care of your emotional and mental health if you’re HIV positive

Don’t neglect your emotional and mental well-being. Seek counselling from a mental health care professional if you’re feeling overwhelmed. You may also need to tell people about your HIV status for support purposes, in which case we advise the following tips if you need to tell someone you’re HIV positive:

  • Be selective about who you inform. Only tell those people whom you trust, like a close friend or an HR professional 
  • Remain calm and enter the conversation with a positive attitude
  • Know the facts about HIV/AIDS so you can educate the person about the condition
  • Pick the right moment. Make sure you will not be disturbed and that you have the person’s full attention

HIV Benefit with Momentum Health4Me

The Momentum Health4Me Gold health insurance plan offers a comprehensive HIV Benefit. The plan offers antiretroviral medication in accordance with the Momentum CareCross Network prescribed HIV medication formulary. A member will first need to register for the HIV benefit and, once approved, the HIV medication will be sent to a MediPost Pharmacy of your choice. Please be advised that a three-month waiting period does apply for this health insurance benefit. 

Staying healthy with HIV is a lifestyle choice you can make

Bloom Financial Services encourages a healthy lifestyle, and this is especially relevant for those who are living with HIV. Make the right choices to keep yourself healthy by following the prescribed antiretroviral treatment plan. You can get comprehensive and affordable health insurance if you have HIV with Bloom. Contact one of our trained brokers for your medical insurance quotes.  

Medical Content Disclaimer

You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom Financial Services website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.