Babies born to HIV-positive mothers rarely survived until innovative treatment was developed. Today, children born with HIV survive thanks to antiretroviral therapy (ART).
In this article, we answer frequently asked questions about being born with and living with HIV.
When do babies start taking ART?
HIV-infected infants should start ART in the first year of life. Most infected infants become eligible to start ART before six months of age. Once your child has started treatment, it’s important that they take it every day.
Can HIV be cured?
Currently, there is no cure for HIV. However, there is antiretroviral therapy (ART) that can help control the virus, allowing persons living with HIV to enjoy long and healthy lives.
Will I die soon?
A person living with HIV can expect to live as long as someone who is HIV-negative if they are diagnosed early, have the right treatment and care, and follow their HIV treatment regimen.
How can I live healthy with HIV?
You can live healthy by:
1. Adhering to your HIV Medication
- HIV Treatment reduces the amount of HIV in the blood (viral load). If your viral load decreases after you begin HIV treatment, it means the treatment is effective and you need to continue to take your medication exactly as prescribed.
- If you miss a dose of your medication, even if it's only once in a while, you're giving HIV a chance to spread quickly. Your immune system may be weakened as a result, and you may become ill.
- The best way to stay healthy and protect others is to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load (or to stay virally suppressed).
- It is also important to keep your clinical appointments and follow your health care worker's advice.
2. Eating healthy.
- Eating healthy provides the energy and nutrients your body needs to fight HIV and other infections.
- It also helps you maintain a healthy weight and manages HIV symptoms and complications.
- It helps in the absorption of HIV medicines and helps manage potential side effects.
Advice from your nutritionist at your health facility may make this process easier for you. You might inquire about the steps you should take to maintain a healthy diet.
Can I be in a relationship?
If you were born with HIV, you can still live a normal healthy life and do everything your peers do, including dating, working, forming relationships, and having HIV-negative children. Importantly, live a healthy lifestyle and adhere to ARV therapy.
What should I do if I'm stressed?
When people learn that they have HIV, they are often sad, confused and want to point the finger at someone. These are entirely reasonable and understandable emotions.
To avoid thinking about having HIV, some young people may be tempted to stop taking their medicine or seeing their doctor. The drugs were a constant reminder of their condition. This is extremely risky and will certainly result in significant health issues.
If you find you’re struggling with any aspect of living with HIV, please ask for help. Talk to a health care professional, a trusted friend, or a family member. There’s a lot of psychosocial support in various hospitals and organizations. There are also hotlines that offer support via the phone. A good example is 1190. You can call or SMS 1190 free of charge for counseling services.