What It’s Really Like to Live with HIV (Going Beyond the Myths)

So many outdated beliefs and misconceptions about living with HIV still linger around. Unfortunately, society misunderstand the specifics of the condition. This can have an impact on HIV-positive individuals and even on those who think they could have been exposed. The fear of getting tested, finding out what’s going on and seeking hiv treatment is all too real and so dangerous!

It’s time to set the record straight.

HIV is not a death sentence. Today, it has turned into a manageable, chronic condition. With the right kind of treatment plan, an HIV-positive person can substantially reduce their viral load and lead a happy, productive life.

HIV Does Not Equal AIDS

If an HIV infection is not controlled medicinally, it can eventually lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. In the past, this was an inevitable process. Today, the progression to AIDS does not have to happen.

The human immunodeficiency virus attacks the immune systems and more specifically – the T-cells (also known as CD4 cells). When the virus “discovers” these cells, it gets inside them to create copies of itself. In the process T-cells are killed, which brings down the body’s ability to fight off infections.

If the T-cell count falls below a certain level, AIDS will be diagnosed.

Antiretroviral drugs aim to stop this process.  By blocking certain stages of the viral life cycle, the medications make HIV incapable of replicating. When treatment is administered in an uninterrupted manner for a prolonged period of time, the HIV viral load could eventually become undetectable.

Undetectable doesn’t mean the virus isn’t still lingering around. If the therapy is discontinued, it can re-emerge and start replicating. By sticking to a treatment protocol, however, an HIV-positive individual can maintain the health of their immune system and prevent the development of AIDS.

Casual Contact Is Perfectly Fine!

The lives of many HIV-positive individuals are ruined by the fears of others. So many people worry that a handshake or a hug can lead to the spread of the virus. They’re also afraid about sharing the same bathroom or cutlery with an HIV-positive person.

This type of viral spread is nearly entirely impossible.

Hugging someone or even drinking water from the same glass will not lead to an infection. Unprotected sex and exposure to contaminated blood are the two routes of getting HIV. Unless you’re engaging in either of those, you have no reason to worry.

Such fears are the ones that contribute to the stigmatisation of people who have HIV. In reality, these individuals aren’t a walking infection risk. They can live with family members, go to work and enjoy social interactions without endangering someone.

Anyone who is HIV-positive should find the strength to talk to people in their life about the condition.

Admitting that you have HIV is definitely scary. Chances are that some family members and friends will not understand and they’ll become distant. In time, however, such relationships can be restored. A bit of education and higher levels of awareness are very important to start changing attitudes and normalising life with the virus.

Life Expectancy

In 1996, a person who became HIV-positive at 20 was expected to live to 39 years at most. Luckily, medical advances have changed that number significantly. By 2011, that very same person was anticipated to reach the age of 73.

This is the primary reason why HIV is no longer considered a death sentence.

HIV-positive individuals are still expected to have a shorter lifespan than people who are not infected. The age gap, however, is shrinking with each passing year.

The overall life expectancy of people with HIV has gone up from 71 years in 2010 to 77 years in 2016. In comparison, a person who is HIV-negative is expected to have an average lifespan of 86 years. There is a nine-year age gap that scientists are working very hard to narrow down through the development of better medications for the management of viral replication.

The earlier a treatment is sought, the better the life expectancy outcome is going to be.

Research suggests that if people start treatment before their T-cell count falls under 500, their life expectancy would be 87 years. In comparison, starting treatment at a later stage of the infection would lead to an average lifespan of 85 years. And while these two years may not seem like such a major difference, they definitely are when looking at an individual’s existence.

These numbers stand as evidence of the incredible importance of early testing.

HIV can be managed. The fact that you’re positive doesn’t mean your life is over. In fact, the sooner you find out and get on medications, the easier it will be for you to go back to normal life as you know it.

HIV testing is readily available in STD clinics in Singapore. You can get it confidentially and professionally at facilities like Shim Clinic. There, you’ll also learn more about risks, prevention and the possibilities for getting treatment in the future.

You can come to Shim Clinic during every day of the week (check out our working hours in the footer of our website. If you’ve had a risky contact, you can also benefit from one of the preventative options we offer – either HIV PrEP or HIV PEP, depending on the circumstances.