School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

Living Positive

Taking Care Of Your Immune System
Your immune system fights infections and disease in your body. People who are HIV positive tend to have weaker immune systems.

When the immune system is not strong, it is easier to get other infections and diseases.

If you are HIV positive, you need to be careful when it comes to your health. One basic way to protect your immune system is to wash your hands often, particularly after using the restroom or before preparing food. It is also good to avoid people who other active infections.

What Can I Do With My Doctor?
It is important to see a doctor regularly for check-ups and tests to make sure that you are staying healthy.

Some ways to keep track of your health include the following:

  • Testing your HIV viral load,
  • T Cell or CD4+ Cell count,
  • Complete blood count (white blood cells, anemia, platelets),
  • Complete blood chemistry profile, including liver enzyme tests,
  • Fasting blood glucose and cholesterol tests,
  • Syphilis blood test,
  • Hepatitis A, B, C blood tests,
  • Toxoplasmosis antibody test,
  • Urinalysis test,
  • Baseline chest x-ray,
  • Baseline electrocardiogram,
  • Baseline vaginal and pelvic exam, and Pap test (women),
  • Baseline oral/dental exam,
  • Baseline physical exam,
  • Skin test for tuberculosis,
  • Skin test for energy (verifies that your immune system can respond to skin tests),
  • Consider and discuss HIV resistance testing.

Other Tips:

  • Keep up with your immunizations.
  • Get rid of infections quickly by taking antibiotics.

What Can I Do For Myself?
Regular exercise not only helps your physical health, but also your emotional health. Physical activity can reduce some symptoms that are common with HIV infection. Physical activity can do the following:

  • Keep you at a healthy weight,
  • Increase your appetite,
  • Control your blood sugar, fat, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels,
  • Help improve your mood,
  • Help to increase your strength and reduce tiredness,
  • Help your immune system to fight infections.

Walking, running, biking, swimming, and dancing are all great ways to get some exercise.

Healthy eating is also important for your physical health. A balanced diet helps you maintain your energy level and strength. Healthy eating can:

  • Help keep the immune system healthy so that you can fight off infections,
  • Slow the disease process,
  • Prevent weight loss,
  • Lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels,
  • Control some the side effects of medications.

When you are HIV positive and trying to eat a healthy diet:

  • Do not eat raw eggs, meat or fish or unpasteurized milk.
  • Cook all meat thoroughly and leave no pink in the center.
  • Take a multivitamin every day.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, but remember to wash them well before eating.
  • Make sure to wash your hands before preparing your food.
  • Drink plenty of water.

More General Tips:

  • Get rest. Sleep is important for your immune system to work well.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands.

With a little effort you can strengthen and protect your immune system.