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Living With AIDS

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 24, 2021 12:13:54 PM / by Calvin Leong


AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) occurs when your body's disease-fighting system (immune system) is badly damaged and no longer protects you from infections and other health problems. This condition is caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection.

Although your immune system is weakened when you are living with AIDS, your healthcare provider will give you instructions about how to stay as healthy as possible.

How to manage lifestyle changes

Managing stress

  • Techniques to manage stress include:
    • Meditation, muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises.
    • Talk therapy.
    • Joining a support group of other people who have AIDS.
    • Getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
    • Spending time on hobbies and activities that you enjoy.


  • Talk to your country's health department about partner notification services. This free service can help you find your sex partners who may have been exposed to AIDS and provide screening.
  • Talk to your sex partners about taking medicine to prevent AIDS (pre-exposure prophylaxis).
  • Protect your sex partners by telling them you have AIDS. Always use a condom during sex. This includes vaginal, oral, and anal sex.
  • Do not share needles or other equipment that is used for injecting, smoking, or snorting drugs. Use a clean, unused needle and syringe every time. Dispose of all needles and syringes after use.

Safety and prevention

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitiser. Wash your hands:
    • After coming into contact with human stool (feces).
    • After working in the garden or yard.
    • After handling a pet.
    • Before preparing or eating food.
    • After using the bathroom.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Always wash your utensils and cutting boards with soap and water after each use.
  • Always keep raw foods separate from other food. Use a separate cutting board for raw meat.
  • If you are around pets and other animals:
    • Do not touch their feces. If you have a cat, ask someone else to clean the litter box.
    • If your pet has diarrhoea, ask someone else to take your pet to the vet for you. Ask the vet whether the diarrhoea is caused by bacteria that is harmful to you.
    • Make sure all your pets are up to date on their vaccines.
    • Avoid touching reptiles, such as snakes, lizards, or turtles.
  • Do not drink water from rivers, lakes, or ponds.
  • Drink bottled water or filtered tap water.
  • If you are planning a trip to another country, talk to your healthcare provider. While traveling, always drink bottled water and be careful about what foods you eat.

Young man holding his sick stomach in pain on black background

How to recognise changes in your condition

AIDS is a lifelong (chronic) illness. You may show no signs or symptoms of illness when AIDS is well managed. Following appropriate medical treatment will lessen the risk of infection and improve the quality and length of your life.

Signs that your condition is getting worse may include:

  • Fever
  • Persistent diarrhoea.
  • Skin problems.
  • Weight loss.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Changes in vision or memory.

Follow these instructions at home:


  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your healthcare provider. Do not change the dose or the time of day that you take the medicine without first getting approval from your healthcare provider. Taking medicines may help to prevent spreading HIV/AIDS to others.
  • Tell your healthcare provider about all over-the-counter or prescription medicines you are taking, including vitamins, dietary supplements, herbs, eye drops, creams, and ointments.
  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine, take it as told by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.

Eating and drinking

  • Talk with your healthcare provider or nutritionist about the best diet for you. Based on your condition, you may need to eat more protein or carbohydrates.
  • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine pale yellow.
  • Follow instructions from your healthcare provider about avoiding certain foods while taking certain medicines.
  • Do not eat:
    • Raw or undercooked fish, meat, or eggs.
    • Raw (unpasteurised) milk, juices, honey, or cheese.
    • Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa sprouts.


  • Exercise regularly. Try doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine.


  • If you drink alcohol, limit how much you have:
    • 0–1 drink a day for women.
    • 0–2 drinks a day for men.
  • Be aware of how much alcohol is in your drink. One drink equals one 12 oz bottle of beer (355 mL), one 5 oz glass of wine (148 mL), or one 1½ oz glass of hard liquor (44 mL).
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your healthcare provider.

General instructions

  • Ask your healthcare provider which vaccines you should get.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as advised by your healthcare provider. This is important.

Happy volunteer family putting their hands together on a sunny day

Contact a healthcare provider if:

  • You miss a dose of medicine.
  • You have new side effects from your medicine.

Get help right away if:

  • You have signs of an infection, such as a fever, chills, or sore throat.
  • You have shortness of breath.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You vomit multiple times.
  • You have diarrhoea.
  • You have vision problems.
  • You have confusion.
  • You have problems controlling your muscles.
  • You have severe pain that does not get better.

Aids awareness ribbon pinned on to grey zip jumper on white background


  • AIDS occurs when your body's immune system is badly damaged and no longer protects you from infections and other health problems.
  • Although your immune system is weakened when you are living with AIDS, your healthcare provider will give you instructions about how to stay as healthy as possible.
  • Contact a healthcare provider right away if you have any signs of an infection, such as a fever, chills, or sore throat.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your healthcare provider.


Brown L.K., Whiteley L., Harper G.W., et. al.: Psychological symptoms among 2032 youth living with HIV: a multisite study. AIDS Patient Care STDS 2015; 29: pp. 212-219.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV among youth. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/age/youth/index.html . Accessed December 24, 2020.

National Center for HIV/AIDS VH, STD, and TB Prevention. National HIV prevention Conference in: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ed. 2017.

SMIT, M. et al. Future challenges for clinical care of an ageing population infected with HIV: a modelling study. Lancet. Infect. Dis. , v. 15, n. 7, p. 810-8, 2015.

Walsh A.S.J., Wesley K.L., Tan S.Y., et. al.: Screening for depression among youth with HIV in an integrated care setting. AIDS Care 2017; 29: pp. 851-857.


For more information on AIDS, visit:

Ministry of Health Singapore: AIDS/HIV

Action for AIDS Singapore

HealthHub: HIV and AIDS

HealthHub: Getting support for STIs (sexually transmitted infections)

HealthHub: Being supportive towards those who are living with HIV can help save lives


Updated on 24 February 2021 by CaregiverAsia.


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Topics: Wellness

Calvin Leong

Written by Calvin Leong

Calvin Leong holds a Master in Medical Education from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom. He is certified in Clinical Wound Care by the ASEAN Wound Care Association. Calvin has 20 years of clinical and lecturing experience focusing on Mentoring in Healthcare, Traumatology and Medical Sciences. Calvin is HRDC certified trainer. He is also a Life Member of The Malaysian Association for the Study of Pain (MASP) and the Malaysian Society of Wound Care Professionals (MSWCP).

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