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HIV and other health conditions

Having HIV can put you more at risk of getting other health conditions. But don’t worry! Having a healthy lifestyle and taking your HIV treatment will help you to stay healthy. 

If you have another health condition as well as HIV, or if you have symptoms, it’s important to tell your healthcare team. They can give you advice on how to manage your health and prevent conditions linked with HIV. If you need medication for another health issue, they can check it is safe to take with your HIV treatment. 

Will I get other health conditions because I have HIV?

Not necessarily. Having HIV does not automatically mean you will get other health conditions (sometimes called ‘co-infections’). But you are more at risk of developing them if you do not look after yourself. It’s important to take your antiretroviral treatment and to have a healthy lifestyle. 

If you have HIV, your doctor will look for signs of other health conditions in your check-ups. They can also give you more information about conditions that are linked to HIV that will help you make sense of it all. 

What can I do to avoid getting other health conditions?

If you have HIV there are many steps you can take to protect your health: 

  • take your antiretroviral medication every day as prescribed (sometimes called ‘adherence’) 

  • eat healthily  

  • exercise regularly 

  • do not drink too much alcohol  

  • do not smoke. 

What if I already have another health condition?

If this is the case you may already be seeing two doctors. It's important that both doctors know what medication you take so they can keep you healthy. This is because, in some cases, drugs to treat another condition might react with your HIV treatment, making one or both of them less effective or unsafe.  

It is good if your doctors can talk to each other directly, but this isn’t always possible. The more you learn and understand about your health, the more you can help information to be shared between your doctors.  

During appointments try making notes about the names of any drugs you are taking. You can then pass this information on to any other healthcare professionals who are supporting you. 

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How can I prevent tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the most common co-infections for people with HIV. One of the best ways to avoid getting TB is to properly take your HIV treatment.  

Tuberculosis and HIV

What is hepatitis and how can I prevent it?

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are common co-infections for people with HIV, especially people who inject drugs. Both are preventable and treatable. Talk to your healthcare provider about how often you should test for them.  

Using a condom and not sharing needles can prevent hepatitis. You can also get vaccinated against hepatitis B.  

Am I more at risk of cancer because I have HIV?

Different cancers can have different causes and some are more common in people who have HIV, especially as people with HIV get older. 

Some types of cancer can be prevented with vaccines and regular screening. For example, the HPV vaccine provides nearly 100% protection from cervical cancer. 

Properly taking your HIV treatment, eating healthily and exercising regularly can reduce your risk of cancer. 

Am I more at risk of COVID-19 because I have HIV?

We are still learning about COVID-19. But current evidence suggests that people with HIV have an increased risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from it.  

The best way to stay healthy is to properly take your HIV medication and any other medication you are on. It is also important to follow national guidelines on preventing COVID infections and testing, and get a COVID-19 vaccination. 

COVID-19 and HIV

What are ‘opportunistic infections’ and how can I prevent them?

When someone with HIV has a weakened immune system (shown by a low CD4 count), they are at risk of other infections. These are called ‘opportunistic infections’ and can be very serious. They include types of meningitis, PCP (a type of pneumonia) and certain cancers. 

Properly taking your HIV medication is the best way to avoid opportunistic infections, as this strengthens your immune system.  

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  • Last updated: 31 March 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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