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Living with HIV

How to Find HIV Treatment Services

  • Key Points

    • If you are living with HIV, there are resources that can help you find a health care provider, pay for your 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 this 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 HIV Testing Sites and Care Services Locator from HIV.gov can help you locate HIV testing centers, mental health 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.
  • How do I 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 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 search tool from HRSA to find medical providers in your area that participate in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.
    • HIV Testing Sites and Care Services Locator, from HIV.gov
      This search tool from HIV.gov can help you locate services in your area, including HIV testing centers, mental health services, medical centers that participate in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, housing assistance programs, and substance abuse treatment facilities.
  • Where can I get help paying for my 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 pre-exposure prophylaxis (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 ClinicalInfo Drug Database and then scroll down the drug fact sheet to the section titled "Manufacturer Information."
  • Where can I 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 regimen.

    • HIV/AIDS Housing, 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 do I 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 ClinicalInfo 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 (ContactUs@HIVinfo.NIH.gov) for confidential assistance. For more information, visit the HIVinfo Contact Us page.

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.
    • If you have HIV, it's important to take care of both your physical health and your mental health.
    • 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 is not the same as mental illness. 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's 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 MentalHealth.gov, in 2014, about one in five American adults experienced a mental health issue.

    However, people with HIV have a higher risk for some mental health conditions than people who do not have HIV. For example, people living with HIV are twice as likely to have depression as people who do not have HIV.

    It's 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?

    The following factors can increase the risk of mental health problems:
    • 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
    The stress of having a serious medical illness or condition, like HIV, may also negatively affect a person's mental health. 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's important to get help.
  • What should I do if I need help for a mental health problem?

    Talk to your health care provider about how you are feeling. Tell them if you are having any problems with drugs or alcohol.

    Your health care provider will consider whether any of your HIV medicines may be affecting your mental health. They can also help you find a mental health care provider, such as a psychiatrist or therapist.

    Here are additional ways to improve your 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 the National Institute of Mental Health (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 HIV medicine prevents 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) ChooseMyPlate.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:

    Don’t 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 People with HIV/AIDS 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 Drug and Alcohol Use

  • Key Points

    • Drug and alcohol use can lead to risky behaviors that increase the chances of getting HIV or passing it on to others (called HIV transmission). For example, a person using drugs or alcohol may have sex without a condom or share needles when injecting drugs.
    • Drug and alcohol 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. Drug or alcohol use can make it hard to focus and stick to a daily HIV 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 drug and alcohol use?

    Drug and alcohol 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.
    • Drug and alcohol 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 drug and alcohol use increase the risk of HIV infection?

    Drugs and alcohol affect the brain, making it hard to think clearly. 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 drug and alcohol use affect a person with HIV?

    Drug and alcohol 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 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:

    • Don’t have sex if you’re 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 HIV prevention for more information on how to reduce the risk of getting or transmitting HIV from injection drug use.
  • 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 HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

    From the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):