Do People Living with HIV Have Other Health Conditions?
Yes. It’s common for people living with HIV to have other health issues.
Some of these issues may be directly related to HIV or its treatment. Others may be completely unrelated.
These health conditions can mean more doctors’ visits, lab tests, and medications to keep up with.
Taking HIV medication (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) daily as prescribed, and staying in regular medical care is the best way for people living with HIV to stay healthy.
Pre-Existing Conditions Related to HIV Risk
Sometimes people living with HIV have pre-existing conditions that may have contributed to their risk for HIV infection. These conditions can sometimes complicate HIV treatment if not addressed.
Among these conditions are mental health issues, alcohol use, and drug use. The risk of HIV infection is higher among people whose lives are affected by mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or the psychological effects of bullying, sexual abuse, or physical abuse. Alcohol and drug use also increase a person’s risk of exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Regardless of whether they played a role in someone’s risk for getting HIV, mental health and substance use disorders can make it harder for people living with HIV to take ART daily as prescribed. But behavioral health treatment and services are available. Talk openly and honestly with your health care provider about your mental health and substance use so that he or she can evaluate you and help you find the support you need.
Use SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Locator to find mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities near you.
Coinfection is when a person has two or more infections at the same time. There are some common coinfections that affect people living with HIV. For example:
- Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C—Hepatitis B and C are contagious liver diseases. Like HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) can be transmitted sexually or by injection drug use. So about one-third of people living with HIV in the United States are coinfected with either HBV or HCV. If left untreated, they can lead to liver disease, liver cancer, and liver failure. Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but treatment can delay or limit liver damage. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but treatment cures up to 90 percent of people who take it in 12-24 weeks. Everyone living with HIV should be tested for hepatitis B and C. Learn more about hepatitis B and C and people living with HIV.
- Tuberculosis—Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by germs spread through the air from a person with untreated TB disease. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can affect other parts of the body. It can cause serious health problems if left untreated. Worldwide, TB is one of the leading causes of death among people living with HIV. That’s why it is important for people living with HIV to be tested for TB and for those who test positive to begin treatment. Learn about HIV and TB coinfection.
- Opportunistic infections—Opportunistic infections (OIs) are infections that occur more frequently or are more severe in people with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV. People are at greatest risk for OIs when their CD4 count falls below 200. When a person with HIV gets certain OIs or specific cancers, they will get diagnosed with AIDS (also known as HIV Stage 3), the most serious stage of HIV infection. Taking HIV medication daily as prescribed, staying in regular medical care, and getting your lab tests done are key to staying healthy and preventing these infections. Learn more about how opportunistic infections affect people living with HIV.
Other Health Conditions Associated with HIV
Thanks to improvements in HIV treatment, people living with HIV are living longer than ever. But even when HIV is well controlled with medication, it causes chronic inflammation. Over time, that takes a toll on the body, putting people living with HIV at greater risk for health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, bone disease, liver disease, cognitive disorders, and some types of cancer. Your health care provider will work with you, or may refer you to a specialist, to treat any of these conditions you may develop.
Some people also experience side effects from HIV medicines that can continue for a long time. See your health care provider regularly and discuss any side effects you experience. Never cut down, skip, or stop taking your HIV medications unless your health care provider tells you to. Your provider will work with you to develop a plan to manage the side effects, or may recommend that you change medication.
Be sure to take care of your emotional wellness, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and quit smoking. These all play an important role in living healthy with HIV.