Common concerns for those living with HIV

While the majority of HIV-positive people live full, healthy lives, some may be susceptible to a number of complications or co-occurring conditions. The following co-occurring conditions are particular medical or behavioral problems that can affect people living with HIV—although not all are direct results of the virus.

Consider talking to your doctor, or discussing the effects of these conditions with a member of TPAN's staff.

Hepatitis C

Many people living with HIV are also co-infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). If left untreated, HCV can eventually lead to liver damage and death. HCV is curable with effective treatment. HCV is mainly transmitted through the sharing of needles, but sexual transmission is possible. All people with HIV should be screened for HCV. Anyone who is vulnerable for HCV infection should be screened annually and whenever HCV infection is suspected. Learn more.

Opportunistic Infections

Opportunistic Infections (OIs) can result from viruses and other organisms (pathogens) that rarely make a healthy person ill. In someone with a weakened immune system, however—such as a person with AIDS—these pathogens can cause great damage and even death.

Opportunistic infections include cytomegalovirus (CMV), pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), and Kaposi sarcoma (KS). Some preventative medication is available for OIs, aside from HIV treatment, however HIV therapy is usually considered the best prevention of all.

Chronic Inflammation

HIV is considered an inflammatory disease—the virus causes chronic inflammation that results in a range of physical problems. Heightened inflammation can have harmful effects even when one is on antiretroviral therapy. HIV-positive individuals may develop complications from inflammation even before achieving serious immune deficiency and AIDS.

Non-AIDS related Cancers

HIV can add to the chance of developing cardiovascular (heart) disease and non-AIDS related cancers (NARCs), which include anal, cervical, lung, and liver cancers. Non-AIDS cancers are now the leading cause of non-AIDS deaths in people with HIV. HIV-positive individuals develop these conditions earlier than their HIV-negative counterparts.

Substance Use

If you are living with HIV, drug and alcohol use can significantly affect your health and well-being, and complicate your HIV care and treatment. It can also put you at risk of transmitting the virus to others. Some people develop substance use disorders—the use of alcohol or drugs that is compulsive or dangerous. Luckily, if you have a substance use disorder, treatment is available that can help you to recover and live a full and active life with HIV.

Mental Health

Mental health issues are a concern for anyone, but they present special challenges for people living with HIV. Like substance use disorders, mental health issues affect an individual’s ability to cope and carry out typical functions in daily life, making it difficult to adhere to antiretroviral therapy. Mental health issues may prevent healthy behaviors, such as getting enough sleep and exercise, and result in behaviors that make you more vulnerable to other infections. TPAN offers free therapy and group support for those dealing with mental health issues