Healthy Living with HIV

Can my HIV or my HIV treatment affect my diet and nutrition?

Healthy Living with HIV

Yes. People with HIV sometimes face issues that can affect their nutrition, such as:

  • Changes in your body’s metabolism;
  • Medicines that can upset your stomach;
  • Opportunistic infections that can cause issues with eating and swallowing, like oral candidiasis and Kaposi sarcoma; and
  • Foods that can affect antiretroviral therapy (ART) (like raw meats and fish).

Any of these problems can affect your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients necessary to stay in good health.

No matter your HIV status, healthy eating is good for your overall health. If you are living with HIV, following a healthy diet offers several benefits:

  • Provides the energy and nutrients your body needs to fight HIV and other infections,
  • Maintains a healthy weight,
  • Manages HIV symptoms and complications, and
  • Improves absorption of medicines and helps manage potential side effects.

Talk to your health care provider about your diet, and ask specific questions about what steps you should take to maintain good nutritionexternal icon. He or she may refer you to a nutritionist or dietitian with whom you can talk about your nutrition needs.

Why is exercise important?

Exercise offers benefits that can help you maintain good physical and mental health. Exercise can increase your strength, endurance, and fitness, and help your immune system work better to fight infections.

People with HIV can do the same types of exercise as people who do not have HIV. Take time to find a fitness routine that you enjoy. Make exercise fun, and commit to exercising regularly.

What does smoking do to a person with HIV?

Smoking increases your risk of developing lung cancer, other cancers, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and other diseases, and of dying early. For these reasons, smoking is an important health issue for everyone, but it is a greater concern for people with HIV, who tend to smoke more than the general population.

About 1 in 5 U.S. adults smoke. Among adults with HIV, the number of people who smoke is 2 to 3 times greater. Smoking has many negative health effects on people who are living with HIV. For example, smokers with HIV are more likely than nonsmokers with HIV to:

  • Develop lung cancer, head and neck cancers, cervical and anal cancers, and other cancers;
  • Develop bacterial pneumonia, Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia, COPD, and heart disease;
  • Develop conditions that affect the mouth, such as oral candidiasis (thrush) and oral hairy leukoplakia; and
  • Have a poorer response to antiretroviral therapy (ART).

People with HIV who smoke have a greater chance of developing a life-threating illness that leads to an AIDS diagnosis. People who smoke and live with HIV also have a shorter lifespan than people with HIV who do not smoke.

Visit betobaccofree.hhs.govexternal icon or call the Smoking Quitline: 877-44U-QUIT (877-448-7848) for more information on the many health benefits of quitting smoking. For help from your state quitline, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).