HIV targets cells in your body
called CD4 cells. Measuring your CD4 count is one of the best ways for your healthcare
provider to tell how well your immune system is working. One of the best ways to prevent
an OI is to keep your CD4 count above 200. A CD4 count below 200 means you have AIDS.
You could be at risk for OIs. Health experts recommend starting HIV treatment as soon as
possible after HIV is diagnosed, no matter how high the CD4 count. Always see your
healthcare provider about when to start treatment.
Some of these infections can be
prevented by avoiding them, or by getting vaccinated. Some infections are really common.
So you need to take special precautions to prevent being exposed to them or to lessen
the chance of becoming sick with them after exposure. If you do develop an OI, it's
important to get diagnosed and treated right away. So it's a good idea to see your
healthcare provider at least once every 3 months or as recommended.
Here are other important tips:
Practice safe sex. Several
OIs are transmitted sexually. You can help prevent them by always practicing safe
sex. Use condoms consistently and correctly to prevent exposure to infection.
Practice safe food
preparation. Some infections can get into your body through the food and
water that you eat and drink. Don't eat foods such as undercooked eggs, raw
(unpasteurized) milk or cheese, unpasteurized fruit juices, or raw seed sprouts.
Don't drink water that may not be clean, such as from lakes and rivers, or when
traveling to foreign countries. Use bottled water when in doubt.
Take care around
animals. Animals can spread some infections to people with HIV/AIDS. Make sure
pets are vaccinated and your cat stays inside. Wash your hands after handling any
animals. Wear gloves when changing cat litter. Avoid animal feces when working
outside in the soil.
Take care around
people. People-to-people spread of OIs is also common. Stay away from people
who are sick, especially with diseases like pneumonia or tuberculosis. Use your
own towel to wipe off gym equipment. Never share needles.
Get vaccinated. Your
healthcare provider will tell you which vaccines you need.
Take preventive medicines if
needed. If you are at high risk for an OI, your healthcare provider may be
able to prescribe antibiotics to prevent certain infections. Always take these
antibiotics as directed.
Take antiretroviral medicines for
your HIV. Your healthcare provider will almost always suggest that you take
medicines to control your HIV. These will help your body to fix the damage from
HIV. They will also strengthen your immune system to fight off complications such
as OIs. Always take these medicines as directed.
Keep a health journal and write
down any new symptoms. If you have a new symptom, make an appointment with
your healthcare provider right away. If you get treated for an infection, make
sure to take all prescribed medicine and keep all your follow-up appointments.
Working closely with your
healthcare provider and taking reasonable precautions will help you reduce your risk of
getting an OI. And don't forget about healthy lifestyle choices like good nutrition,
proper sleep, and regular exercise.