Nutrition and exercise

What should I do to protect my health?

The UN encourages all personnel to take care of their health, but this is especially important for those of us who are HIV-positive. It would be good practice for everyone to follow the following principles of healthy living.

  • Nutrition: Eat appropriate amounts of food and consume healthy foods from the different food groups, which are:
  • Proteins-meat, fish, soya beans and nuts help build and maintain muscles.
  • Carbohydrates-carbohydrates supply energy and can be found in grains, cereals, vegetables and nuts.
  • Vitamins-vitamins are found in fresh fruits and vegetables, vitamins strengthen the immune system and help fight infections.
  • Fats-fats should be consumed modestly. Put emphasis on monounsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and pulses while avoiding saturated fats, including butter and animal products such as lard and suet.

If you are living with HIV, you should take care to eat more and focus on consuming healthy foods.

  • Clean water: drink plenty of liquids. If you are not sure about the purity of your public water supply, boil your drinking water or use bottled water, if possible.
  • Food hygiene: 1) wash your hands carefully before food preparation. 2) Keep raw and cooked food separate. 3) Choose foods that are safe (avoid unpasteurized milk and wash fresh fruits and vegetables well). 4) Cook foods thoroughly. 5) Eat foods soon after they are cooked.
  • Stress and anxiety: minimize stress and anxiety. Having a social support network helps. Get regular exercise and adequate sleep.
  • Avoid smoking: smoking damages the lungs and other organs and increases susceptibility to infection.
  • Medical care: have regular medical follow-ups.
  • Medicines: avoid unnecessary medicines and if you are on other medications not related to HIV, discuss them with your physician.
If I am living with HIV, what protection should I follow?

People living with HIV play an important role in health promotion, for themselves and their partners, families and communities. The concept of Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention emphasizes the role of positive people in all aspects of health promotion and HIV prevention.

If you are diagnosed with HIV, there are some prevention steps that you should follow. You should prevent:

  • becoming infected with other sexually transmitted infections by having protected/safer sex
  • becoming infected with hepatitis B and hepatitis C by having protected/safer sex, using safe injection practices and getting appropriate vaccinations
  • complications of HIV ensuring that you get good medical care
  • HIV resistance by adhering to your treatment protocol
  • transmitting HIV to your partner by:
  • disclosing your status to your partner,
  • encouraging your partner to get tested for HIV,
  • using male or female condoms during sex,
  • using single-use sterile syringes (no reuse), and
  • not sharing sex toys, etc.

If your partner is HIV-negative and is accidentally exposed to HIV, encourage him or her access post-exposure prophylaxis within 2 to 72 hours after the accident.

Take greater control of your life. You have the right to make healthy choices and you have the responsibility-personal, practical and ethical-to protect your partner.

More Information

(Note: Links will open in a new browser window)

  • Living Well with HIV/AIDS
    Providing nutritional care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS is an important part of caring at all stages of the disease. This on-line manual produced by FAO and WHO provides practical recommendations for a healthy and well balanced diet for people living with HIV/AIDS. It deals with common complications that people living with HIV/AIDS are experiencing at different stages of infection and helps provide local solutions that emphasize using local food resources and home-based care and support.
  • Weight Maintenance and Nutrition
    This website covers issues about vitamin supplements, guidelines for “safer” food preparation, and nutritional concerns for women.
  • Exercise and HIV
    This link includes articles about advice, news and research, and personal accounts about exercise and HIV.
  • Nutrition and Exercise when you have HIV
    This site gives some very practical suggestions about how to stay healthy through good nutrition and exercise.