HIV – what is it?
HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It causes a chronic infection that gradually, over the years, impairs the functioning of CD4 lymphocytes (blood cells important for the body’s immunity). Untreated HIV in an average of 8 years leads to the development of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) – a syndrome of acquired immunodeficiency. This disease makes the body stop defending itself against any pathogens, and even a seemingly harmless infection becomes a threat to health and life.
The first symptoms of HIV
When do the first symptoms of HIV appear? This occurs about 2-3 weeks after infection. After another 14 days, the symptoms disappear spontaneously, hence HIV at the initial stage is often underestimated by patients.
The first symptoms of HIV infection are:
- headache, sometimes combined with other neurological symptoms;
- muscle pain;
- sore throat;
- enlarged lymph nodes (most often in the neck and armpits);
- mouth, esophagus, genital or anal ulcers;
- red rash.
It should be emphasized that the skin manifestations of HIV play a large role in the diagnosis of the disease. A red macular-papular rash (similar to rubella) is hard to miss as it appears on the body, limbs and face of an infected person.
Living with HIV
People hearing the diagnosis may treat it like a sentence. Meanwhile, it is possible to live with HIV – treatment in Poland is at a high level, and early therapy increases the patient’s chances for a long life.
How to live with HIV? Living with HIV, apart from your medication regimen, doesn’t have to be any different than living a healthy person. However, there are aspects that people with HIV should pay attention to in order to take care of themselves and others.
People with HIV should try to eat a healthy and balanced diet. It is good that their diet includes:
- Starchy foods – bread, groats, potatoes, pasta, rice, cereals, green bananas. These types of products are a source of energy, as well as fiber and valuable minerals.
- Fruits and vegetables are the main source of vitamins.
- Foods that provide protein, such as poultry, fish, beans.
- Dairy products – Cheese, yoghurt and milk help keep calcium levels high. If a patient with HIV is lactose intolerant, it is worth introducing kefir or sour milk to the diet, in which the lactose has been removed in the fermentation process.
- Fats – oil or butter are not only a source of fatty acids, but also enable the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
It is also important to take care of the proper level of hydration. Providing a minimum of 2 liters of water a day supports the proper functioning of the body and prevents the effects of dehydration (weakness, drowsiness, dizziness).
The issue of alcohol consumption by people with HIV is interesting. There is no evidence that drinking beer, a glass of wine or a glass of vodka could adversely affect the health of an infected person. Some experts say that small doses of alcohol can even be beneficial, reducing stress and stimulating appetite. Remember, however, that alcohol can weaken the immune system, increasing susceptibility to infection and accelerating the progression of the disease, especially if the patient is taking retroviral drugs. The use of these drugs is a contraindication to drinking alcohol.