Living with HIV

How to Find HIV Treatment Services

  • Key Points

    • There are resources that can help people living with HIV find a health care provider, pay for medicines, locate affordable housing, and get help with mental health issues.
    • The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is a federal program designed to help people with HIV get the medical care and other support services they need. Use the Find a Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Medical Provider search tool from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to find medical providers in your area that participate in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.
    • The Find HIV Services Near You from HIV.gov can help you locate HIV testing centers, sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing centers, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services, mental health services, family planning services, medical centers that participate in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, housing assistance programs, and substance abuse treatment resources in your area.
    • If you have questions about HIV treatment or need help finding HIV treatment resources, HIVinfo health information specialists can assist you. Visit the HIVinfo Contact Us page to find out how to get in touch.
  • Where can people with HIV find a health care provider?

    Health care providers are an essential part of successful HIV treatment. They prescribe HIV medicines and order tests to monitor their patients' health. People with HIV work with their health care providers to select an HIV treatment regimen that works best for their needs.

    The following resources can help you find a health care provider:

    • State HIV/AIDS Hotlines, from HRSA
      If you need help finding a health care provider or HIV/AIDS-related services in your area, call your state's HIV/AIDS hotline. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) maintains a list of HIV/AIDS hotlines for the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
    • Find a Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Medical Provider, from HRSA
      The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides HIV treatment services to people with HIV who have no health insurance or who are underinsured. Use this Find a Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Medical Provider search tool from HRSA to find medical providers in your area that participate in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.
    • Find HIV Services Near You, from HIV.gov
      This search tool from HIV.gov can help you locate services in your area, including HIV testing centers, sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing centers, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services, mental health services, family planning services, medical centers that participate in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, housing assistance programs, and substance abuse treatment facilities.
  • Where can people with HIV get help paying for HIV medicines?

    There are several resources that can help people with HIV get the medicines they need:

    • ADAP Directory, from the ADAP Advocacy Association
      AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) make HIV medicines and other services available to people who are living with HIV and who do not have sufficient health insurance or who need financial assistance. The ADAP Directory is an online resource that includes current ADAP-related information from the United States and several U.S. territories.
    • NASTAD Membership Directory
      Use the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors' (NASTAD) directory to find health care specialists who administer HIV health care programs in your state.
    • Ready, Set, PrEP, from HHS
      The Ready, Set, PrEP program from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides the HIV medicines that are used for PrEP at no cost for qualified applicants.
    • Drug Companies
      Some companies that make HIV medicines also have drug-assistance programs. To find the contact information for the manufacturer of an HIV medicine, search for the drug in the Clinical Info Drug Database and then scroll down the drug fact sheet to the section titled "Manufacturer Information."
  • Where can people with HIV find housing assistance?

    A stable living situation makes it easier for people with HIV to keep appointments with their health care provider and stick to an HIV treatment regimen.

    • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program, from HUD
      The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) manages the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, which is designed to provide housing assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
  • How can people with HIV get help with mental health issues?

    Anyone can have problems with mental health, but people with HIV are more likely to experience some mental health conditions, such as depression, than people without HIV. Read the HIVinfo HIV and Mental Health fact sheet for more information.

    Below are some places to find mental health treatment services:

  • How can HIVinfo help?

    If you have questions about HIV treatment or need help finding HIV treatment resources, HIVinfo health information specialists can assist you. English- and Spanish-speaking health information specialists are available. Contact HIVinfo by phone (1-800-448-0440) or email (Contact-HIVinfo@NIH.gov) for confidential assistance. For more information, visit the HIVinfo Contact Us page.

    Also see the HIV Source collection of HIV links and resources.

HIV and COVID-19

    • COVID-19 is caused by a virus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and can be spread from person to person. Anyone can get infected with SARS-CoV-2, but people with HIV may have an underlying condition or a comorbidity that can make them severely sick if they become infected with SARS-CoV-2.
    • Testing is the only way to know that someone has been infected with SARS-CoV-2. People with HIV should immediately contact their health care provider if they test positive for COVID-19. People with HIV should also continue taking their HIV medicines as prescribed.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people with HIV who are eligible should get a COVID-19 vaccine primary dose (also known as initial dose), as well as a booster dose, regardless of viral load or CD4 T lymphocyte cell count.
    • COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people with HIV. According to CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines interfere with medicines to treat or prevent HIV.
    • People with HIV should follow the general CDC protocol on how to protect yourself and others from infection with COVID-19. Getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can also protect people with HIV.
  • What does a person need to know about COVID-19 and HIV?

    COVID-19 is caused by a virus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and can be spread from person to person. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 primarily occurs when a person inhales respiratory droplets or particles that contain the virus or when a person touches their mucous membranes with hands that have been contaminated with the virus.

    Anyone can get infected with SARS-CoV-2 and become severely sick or die from COVID-19. However, people with underlying medical conditions or those who are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system are more likely to get very sick, be hospitalized, need intensive care, require a ventilator to breathe, or die from COVID-19. People with HIV have higher rates of certain underlying medical conditions. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) weakens the immune system and can cause a person to be immunocompromised.

    Currently, there are a lot of unknowns about COVID-19 and how it affects people with HIV. However, people with HIV, especially those with advanced HIV or untreated HIV, may have an underlying condition or a comorbidity that can make them severely sick if they become infected with SARS-CoV-2.

  • What should a person do if they think that they might have COVID-19?

    You should follow CDC recommendations regarding symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested immediately if you think you might be infected with SARS-CoV-2. A person can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 but show only few symptoms or no symptoms at all (also known as asymptomatic infection). Testing is the only way to know that someone has been infected with SARS-CoV-2. Testing also ensures that people are not spreading the virus to others.

    Most health care providers offer COVID-19 testing. Contact your health care provider if you are experiencing COVID-19–related symptoms or have come in contact with an infected person. People can also get tested for COVID-19 at their local pharmacies by making scheduled appointments or drive throughs or by purchasing at-home rapid tests over the counter at local pharmacies. Residential households in the United States can now order free at-home testing kits from the U.S. Postal Service. Visit CDC website for more information about self-testing and visit your state or local health department’s website for information on additional testing sites.

    People with HIV should immediately contact their health care provider if they test positive for COVID-19. People with HIV should also continue taking their HIV medicines as prescribed. HIV medicines are known as antiretroviral drugs.

  • Should people with HIV get COVID-19 vaccines?

    There are three COVID-19 vaccines that are Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved or authorized for emergency use in the United States. CDC recommends that people with HIV who are eligible should get a COVID-19 vaccine primary dose (also known as initial dose), as well as a booster dose, regardless of viral load or CD4 T lymphocyte cell count. The COVID-19 vaccines approved or authorized for use in the United States have one or two initial doses. The number of initial COVID-19 vaccine dose you need will depend on the type of vaccine you receive.

    CDC also recommends that people with advanced or untreated HIV get an additional primary dose to boost their immune response. An additional primary dose is the dose given after a person receives the initial dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. People with HIV should talk to their health care provider whether they need an additional primary dose.

    People who are vaccinated against COVID-19 can still get infected with SARS-CoV-2 but getting vaccinated decreases the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

  • Is COVID-19 vaccine safe for people with HIV and does it interfere with medicines to treat or prevent HIV?

    COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people with HIV. People with HIV were included in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. COVID-19 vaccines meet the FDA’s standards of safety, effectiveness, and quality. According to CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines interfere with medicines to treat or prevent HIV. HIV medicines that treat HIV are called antiretroviral drugs while HIV medicines that prevent HIV are called pre-exposure prophylaxis.

    There are drugs that are FDA-approved or authorized for the treatment of COVID-19. You should talk to your health care provider about potential drug-drug interactions if you are taking HIV medicines and COVID-19 treatment. To learn more about drug-drug interactions, read the What is a Drug Interaction HIVinfo fact sheet.

  • What can people with HIV do to protect themselves from COVID-19?

    People with HIV should follow the general CDC protocols on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can protect you and others from COVID-19. People with HIV can also protect themselves from COVID-19 by—

    • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
    • Continuing to take antiretroviral drugs to strengthen the immune system.
    • Ensuring that all vaccinations, including vaccination against the flu, are up to date.
    • Maintaining adequate supply of antiretroviral drugs (at least 30 days’ supply) and other drugs needed to manage HIV; you can talk to your health care provider about getting your HIV medicine by mail.
    • Keeping all medical appointments and observing safety protocols during in-person medical visits; people with HIV should opt for telemedicine when possible.

HIV and Mental Health

  • Key Points

    • Mental health refers to a person's overall emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Good mental health helps people make healthy choices, reach personal goals, develop healthy relationships, and cope with stress.
    • For people with HIV, taking care of both physical and mental health are important.
    • People with HIV have a higher risk for some mental health conditions than people who do not have HIV.
    • Mental health conditions are treatable, and people with mental health problems can recover.
  • What is mental health?

    Mental health refers to a person's overall emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health affects how people think, feel, and act. Good mental health helps people make healthy choices, reach personal goals, develop healthy relationships, and cope with stress.

    Poor mental health means people find it difficult to manage how they feel, think, act, or cope with stress. Poor mental health is not the same as mental illness. Mental illnesses are mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders that may not result in any impairment or may result to mild, moderate, or severe impairment that may limit or interfere with function in one or more areas of life. Mental illnesses include many different conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

    A person can have poor mental health and not have a diagnosed mental illness. Likewise, a person with a mental illness can still enjoy mental well-being.

    If you are living with HIV, it is important to take care of both your physical health and your mental health.

  • Are people with HIV at risk for mental health conditions?

    Anyone can have mental health problems. Mental health conditions are common in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2019, about one in five American adults experienced a mental health issue.

    People with HIV are at high risk of some mental health conditions because of the stress associated with living with HIV. For example, people living with HIV are twice as likely to have depression as people who do not have HIV.

    It is important to remember that mental health conditions are treatable and that people who have mental health problems can recover.

  • What can cause mental health problems in people with HIV?

    The following factors can increase the risk of mental health problems in anyone:

    • Major life changes, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job
    • Negative life experiences, such as abuse or trauma
    • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
    • A family history of mental health problems

    In addition to these factors, the stress of having a serious medical illness or condition, like HIV, may also negatively affect a person's mental health. Situations that can contribute to mental health problems in people with HIV include:

    • Difficulty in telling others about an HIV diagnosis
    • Stigma and discrimination associated with HIV
    • Loss of social support and isolation
    • Difficulty in getting mental health services

    In people with HIV, HIV infection and related opportunistic infections can affect the brain and the rest of the nervous system. This may lead to changes in how a person thinks and behaves. In addition, some medicines used to treat HIV may have side effects that affect a person's mental health.

  • What are the warning signs of a mental health problem?

    Changes in how a person feels or acts can be a warning sign of a mental health problem. For example, potential signs of depression include:

    • Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
    • Experiencing persistent sadness or feeling empty
    • Feeling anxious or stressed
    • Having suicidal thoughts

    If you have any signs of a mental health problem, it is important to get help.

  • What should people with HIV do if they need help for a mental health problem?

    People with HIV can talk to their health care provider about how they are feeling. They can also tell their health care providers if they are having any problems with drugs or alcohol.

    Health care providers will consider whether any HIV medicines may be affecting the person’s mental health. They can also help people with HIV find a mental health care provider, such as a psychiatrist or therapist.

    Here are additional ways that people with HIV can improve their mental health:

    • Join a support group.
    • Try meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to relax.
    • Get enough sleep, eat healthy meals, and stay physically active.

    To find mental health treatment services, use these resources from NIMH and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

HIV and Nutrition and Food Safety

  • Key Points

    • In people with HIV, good nutrition supports overall health and helps maintain the immune system. Good nutrition also helps people with HIV maintain a healthy weight and absorb HIV medicines.
    • Food and water can be contaminated with germs that cause illnesses (called foodborne illnesses or food poisoning).
    • Because HIV damages the immune system, foodborne illnesses are likely to be more serious and last longer in people with HIV than in people with a healthy immune system.
    • Food safety is about how to select, handle, prepare, and store food to prevent foodborne illnesses. Following food safety guidelines reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses.
  • Why is good nutrition important for people living with HIV?

    Good nutrition is about finding and maintaining a healthy eating style. Good nutrition supports overall health and helps maintain the immune system. It also helps people with HIV maintain a healthy weight and absorb HIV medicines.

    HIV attacks and destroys the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight off infections. People with HIV take a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV treatment regimen) every day. The medicines prevent HIV from destroying the immune system. A healthy diet also helps strengthen the immune system and keep people with HIV healthy.

  • What is a healthy diet for people living with HIV?

    In general, the basics of a healthy diet are the same for everyone, including people with HIV.

    • Eat a variety of foods from the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy.
    • Eat the right amount of food to maintain a healthy weight.
    • Choose foods low in saturated fat, sodium (salt), and added sugars.

    To learn more about healthy eating, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) MyPlate.gov website.

  • Can HIV or HIV medicines cause nutrition-related problems?

    HIV and HIV medicines can sometimes cause nutrition-related problems. For example, some HIV-related infections can make it hard to eat or swallow. Side effects from HIV medicines, such as loss of appetite, nausea, or diarrhea, can make it hard to stick to an HIV regimen. If you have HIV and are having a nutrition-related problem, talk to your health care provider.

    To avoid nutrition-related problems, people with HIV must also pay attention to food safety.

  • What is food safety?

    Food and water can be contaminated with germs that cause illnesses (called foodborne illnesses or food poisoning). Food safety is about how to select, handle, prepare, and store food to prevent foodborne illnesses.

  • Why is food safety important for people living with HIV?

    Because HIV damages the immune system, foodborne illnesses are likely to be more serious and last longer in people with HIV than in people with a healthy immune system. Following food safety guidelines reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses.

  • What steps can people with HIV take to prevent foodborne illnesses?

    If you have HIV, follow these food safety guidelines to reduce your risk of foodborne illnesses:

    Do not eat or drink the following foods:

    • Raw eggs or foods that contain raw eggs, for example, homemade cookie dough
    • Raw or undercooked poultry, meat, and seafood
    • Unpasteurized milk or dairy products and fruit juices

    Follow the four basic steps to food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

    • Clean: Wash your hands, cooking utensils, and countertops often when preparing foods.
    • Separate: Separate foods to prevent the spread of any germs from one food to another. For example, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from foods that are ready to eat, including fruits, vegetables, and breads.
    • Cook: Use a food thermometer to make sure that foods are cooked to safe temperatures.
    • Chill: Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, or other foods that are likely to spoil within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing.
      The four steps of food safety are clean, separate, cook, and chill.

    For more information, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Food Safety for Older Adults and People with Cancer, Diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Organ Transplants, and Autoimmune Diseases webpage. If you are planning a trip outside the United States, read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Traveling with HIV fact sheet.

HIV and Substance Use

  • Key Points

    • Substance use refers to the use of drugs and alcohol and includes the misuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines.
    • Substance use can lead to risky behaviors that increase the chance of getting HIV or passing it onto others (called HIV transmission). Risky behaviors include having sex without a condom and sharing needles. For example, a person using drugs or alcohol may have sex without a condom or share needles when injecting drugs.
    • Substance use can harm the health of a person with HIV. Specifically, drug and alcohol use can weaken the immune system and damage the liver.
    • People with HIV take a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV treatment regimen) every day to stay healthy. Substance use can make it hard to focus and stick to a daily HIV treatment regimen. Skipping HIV medicines allows HIV to multiply and damage the immune system.
    • Drug interactions between HIV medicines and recreational drugs can increase the risk of dangerous side effects.
  • What is the connection between HIV and substance use?

    Substance use is the use of drugs and alcohol and includes the misuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines. Substance use is related to HIV in the following ways:

    • Use of alcohol and recreational drugs can lead to risky behaviors that increase the chances of getting HIV or passing it on to others (called HIV transmission). Recreational drugs include injection and non-injection drugs, such as opioids (including heroin), methamphetamine (meth), crack cocaine, and inhalants (poppers). Some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines contain stimulants that when used inappropriately can also lead to risky behaviors.
    • Substance use can harm the health of a person with HIV. Specifically, drug and alcohol use can weaken the immune system and damage the liver.
  • How does substance use increase the risk of getting HIV?

    Drugs and alcohol use affect the brain, making it hard to think clearly. This includes the use of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines for purposes other than prescribed, in excessive amounts, or over a longer period than was intended. People using drugs or alcohol may make poor decisions and take risks.

    Some risky behaviors can increase the risk of getting or transmitting HIV. For example, a person using drugs or alcohol may have sex without a condom or share needles when injecting drugs.

    In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by:

    • Having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV
    • Sharing injection drug equipment (works), such as needles, with someone who has HIV
  • How can substance use affect a person with HIV?

    Substance use can harm the health of a person with HIV in several ways.

    Drugs and alcohol can weaken the immune system.
    HIV damages the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infections and certain cancers. Drug or alcohol use can further damage the immune system and cause HIV infection to worsen.

    Drugs and alcohol can damage the liver and cause liver disease.
    One of the main functions of the liver is to remove harmful substances (toxins) from the blood. Toxins are produced when the liver breaks down the chemicals in drugs or alcohol.

    Drug and alcohol use can damage the liver, making it work harder to remove toxins from the body. The buildup of toxins can weaken the body and lead to liver disease.

    Some recreational drugs can interact with HIV medicines.
    Drug interactions between HIV medicines and recreational drugs can increase the risk of dangerous side effects. For example, overdoses due to interactions between some HIV medicines and drugs, such as ecstasy (MDMA) or GHB, have been reported.

    Drug and alcohol use can make it hard to take HIV medicines every day.
    People with HIV take a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV treatment regimen) every day to stay healthy. Drug or alcohol use can make it hard to focus and stick to a daily HIV treatment regimen. Skipping HIV medicines allows HIV to multiply and damage the immune system.

  • If you use drugs or drink alcohol, take the following steps to protect your health.

    If you use drugs or alcohol:

    • Do not have sex if you are high.
    • Use a condom correctly every time you have sex. Read this fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to use condoms correctly.

    If you drink alcohol:

    • Drink in moderation. Moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. One drink is a 12-oz bottle of beer, a 5-oz glass of wine, or a shot of liquor.
    • Visit Rethinking Drinking, a website from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). This website can help you evaluate your drinking habits and consider how alcohol may be affecting your health.

    If you inject drugs:

    • Use only new, sterile needles and drug injection equipment (works) each time you inject.
    • Never share needles and works.
    • Visit CDC’s webpage on how to protect yourself if you inject drugs for more information on how to reduce the risk of getting or transmitting HIV from injection drug use.

    Therapy, medicines, and other methods are also available to help you stop or cut down on drinking alcohol or using drugs. You can talk with a counselor or a health care provider about options that might be right for you. To find a substance abuse treatment center near you, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment locator or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

  • This fact sheet is based on information from the following sources:

    From CDC:

    From the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

    From the Department of Veterans Affairs:

    From Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion:

    From HIV.gov:

    From the National Cancer Institute:

    From the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

    Also see the HIV Source collection of HIV links and resources.