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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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HIV and Your Body

When you have HIV, it’s important to know what can happen in your body.

It doesn’t just affect your immune system. The virus and the drugs taken to treat it can affect your eyes, heart, kidneys, liver, and brain.

HIV and Your Eyes

About 2 of every 3 people with HIV or AIDS develop eye problems. Some are mild, while others are severe enough to cause blindness. Among the most common are infections, which can lead to bleeding in the retina (the tissue at the back of the eye that reflects light) and detachment of the retina.

You may not notice any symptoms until the problems are advanced so it's important to have regular eye exams. Contact your doctor right away if you notice any changes in your vision, like seeing spots, watery or red eyes, being sensitive to light, or eye pain.

HIV and Your Heart

A body with HIV is in a state of almost constant inflammation as it tries to fight the infection. Inflammation has been linked to heart disease.

Drugs you take for HIV can also raise your risk of heart disease. And some HIV drugs cause insulin resistance, raising your chances for diabetes, and problems breaking down fats.

You can cut your chance of heart-related problems by doing the following:

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes a variety of vegetables and fruits, plenty of whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids. Choose lean cuts of meat and low-fat dairy products.
  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.
  • Keep a healthy weight. If you are carrying extra weight, losing as little as 5%-10% can have big health benefits.
  • Follow instructions for prescriptions for diabetes or cholesterol drugs carefully.


HIV and Your Kidneys

HIV puts you at higher risk of having kidney disease. Signs of it may not appear until serious damage has been done, so your doctor will need to check your kidneys regularly.

Some HIV medications can cause kidney damage. If you already have kidney problems, your doctor might suggest you avoid these medications.

High blood pressure and diabetes are major causes of kidney disease. Keeping your blood pressure and blood sugar under control helps protect your kidneys.

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