Do you have HIV or Aids-re­lated ques­tions? Feel­ing lonely or con­fused? Don’t de­spair! Dr Sindi an­swers your ques­tions.

Bona - - Editor’s Letter -

Dr Sindi an­swers your HIV/Aids-re­lated ques­tions


Last month, I tested pos­i­tive for HIV and I’m now on an­tiretro­vi­ral treat­ment (ARV). What other mea­sures should I put in place so that I can live a long and healthy life?


Dear Anony­mous: The most im­por­tant thing is that you take your ARV treat­ment ev­ery­day.

This will lower your vi­ral load – the num­ber of HIV copies in your blood. It needs to be un­de­tectable within 12 weeks of start­ing treat­ment. An un­de­tectable vi­ral load means that you are still liv­ing with HIV, but the virus is not mul­ti­ply­ing. This gives your im­mune sys­tem a chance to get stronger. If your im­mune sys­tem is strong, then you can live a long and healthy life!


I am an HIV-pos­i­tive man, and I would like to know how this virus af­fects my body and im­mune sys­tem.


Dear Anony­mous:

HIV af­fects the im­mune sys­tem, and the cells that it tar­gets are the CD4 cells. These are the most im­por­tant part of your im­mune sys­tem. HIV uses them to make copies

of it­self, which are called the vi­ral load. When you are in­fected, the most im­por­tant thing is to start life­long ARV treat­ment be­cause it works by pre­vent­ing HIV from mak­ing copies of it­self in­side the CD4 cells. The im­mune sys­tem then has a chance to get stronger. Tak­ing your treat­ment prop­erly en­sures that your vi­ral load is un­de­tectable. Re­mem­ber that be­ing HIV pos­i­tive is not a death sen­tence.


Be­fore I tested pos­i­tive for HIV and started tak­ing ARVs, I was very sick. I’m con­cerned that I’m still sick even though I’m on treat­ment. Why am I not get­ting bet­ter? Anony­mous

Dear Anony­mous: Life­long an­tiretro­vi­ral treat­ment has side ef­fects. Most peo­ple feel them in the first 2–4 weeks. If you still feel un­well or be­come worse af­ter that pe­riod, then you need to see a doc­tor. Be­fore you start the treat­ment, doc­tors need to make sure that you do not have any op­por­tunis­tic in­fec­tions. These are in­fec­tions you get when your CD4 count is very low. They are treated be­fore start­ing treat­ment. Without this process, you might get sicker.


I am HIV pos­i­tive and not sure whether to dis­close my sta­tus or not. I’m afraid that I might be dis­crim­i­nated against. I don’t know what to do.


Dear Anony­mous: HIV stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion is a sad re­al­ity for peo­ple liv­ing with the virus. Dis­clo­sure is not easy, and it hurts when peo­ple start act­ing neg­a­tively to­wards you. I have a sim­ple prin­ci­ple; you do not have to dis­close to any­one but your sex­ual part­ner or part­ners. I rec­om­mend that you lis­ten in­tently to how peo­ple com­ment on HIVre­lated mat­ters. Their com­ments will tell you whether they can be trusted with your sta­tus or not.

ABOUT DR SINDIDr Sin­disiwe van Zyl is an HIV clin­i­cian and a pa­tients’ rights ac­tivist. She reg­u­larly of­fers ad­vice on her Twit­ter page. Fol­low her @sin­di­vanzyl

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