Living with HIV

Key points

  • HIV is manageable like many other chronic diseases.
  • Once you have HIV, you have it for life. Unlike some other viruses, you can't get rid of HIV completely.
  • People with HIV who get treatment can live long, healthy lives, and protect others.
Image of people at table.

Newly diagnosed with HIV

Receiving an HIV diagnosis can be life changing. You may feel many emotions—sadness, hopelessness, or anger. Health care providers and social service providers can help you find HIV care and navigate the early stages of your diagnosis.

Find HIV care

A health care team that is knowledgeable about HIV care will help you manage your care and treatment. Your primary HIV care provider should lead your health care team.

You can also use the locator below to find a local health center or a Ryan White HIV/AIDS provider who can help you access medical care, medications, and essential support services.

Start HIV treatment as soon as possible

HIV treatment (antiretroviral therapy or ART) involves taking medicine to reduce the amount of HIV in your body. When taken as prescribed, HIV medicine can make the amount of virus in your body (viral load) so low that a test can't detect it (undetectable viral load). Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load is the best thing people with HIV can do to stay healthy.

Protect others

There are many actions you and you partners can take to prevent HIV transmission.

Having an undetectable viral load prevents HIV transmission during sex. But there are situations when either partner may want to use additional prevention options.

  • Using condoms can help prevent other STIs, like gonorrhea and chlamydia.
  • Using condoms or having your partner take PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) can provide added peace of mind.
  • Also consider using additional prevention options if you
    • Are unsure, for any reason, that you have an undetectable viral load;
    • Have a high viral load (200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood or greater);
    • Have trouble taking HIV medicine regularly;
    • Missed some doses since your last viral load test; or
    • Have stopped taking HIV medicine or may do so in the future.

A small number of people can’t get an undetectable viral load even though they take HIV medicine as prescribed. You can still protect your partners by using other HIV prevention options.

Keep Reading: Treating HIV

Telling others

In some states, there are laws that require you to share your HIV status with your sex or injection partners. Sharing your status with anyone else is your choice.

Sex or injection partners

Telling your partners that you have HIV before you have sex or inject drugs helps your partners make decisions to protect their health. You should also tell your partner(s) if you've been diagnosed with another STI so they can get tested.

There are two ways to let your partner(s) know:

  • You tell your partner(s). These conversations can be hard. A partner may have exposed you to HIV, or you may have exposed them without knowing. For tips on how to tell your partner, check out the conversation starters from Let's Stop HIV Together.
  • The health department tells your partner(s). This is sometimes called "Partner Services." In addition to letting them know they may have been exposed to HIV, they will also provide your partners with testing, counseling, and referrals for other services. Your health care provider, social worker, case manager, patient navigator, or HIV testing center can help you find a Partner Services program.

Health care providers

Health care providers and other HIV service providers need to know about your HIV diagnosis, so they make sure you get the services you need.

Family and friends

Sharing your HIV status with certain family members and friends has many benefits.

  • Your family and friends can help you deal with an HIV diagnosis.
  • They can support you with treatment challenges.
  • They can help you disclose your status to others.
  • They can speak for you in case of an emergency.
  • They can help you navigate the medical system.


You do not have to tell your employer. But you may want to in case you need to take extended leave or change your schedule.

By law, your disclosure is confidential. Learn about disclosure, confidentiality, and the law. Your state health department can also share your state's laws and how they apply to disclosure.

Healthy living

In addition to taking your HIV treatment and seeing your health care provider, there are ways to keep yourself healthy and your immune system strong.

Eat healthy and exercise

Following a healthy diet provides the energy and nutrients you need to fight HIV and other infections. Talk to your health care provider about your diet and ask about steps you can take to maintain good nutrition. Exercise helps you maintain good physical and mental health and helps your immune system fight infections. Find a fitness routine that you enjoy.

Stay up to date with health screenings and vaccinations

People with HIV have an increased chance of developing severe symptoms from common infections. Staying up to date on routine screenings and vaccines can help you prevent infection or severe disease.

Prevent illnesses

Some illnesses (sometimes called opportunistic infections) occur more often and are more severe in people with HIV. Common severe illnesses include herpes simplex virus, tuberculosis, or pneumonia.

Today, severe illnesses are less common because of effective HIV treatment. Taking HIV medicine as prescribed is the best way to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Talk to your health care provider about things that could expose you to illnesses at work, at home, and on vacation. If you get an illness, talk to your health care provider about how to treat it.

Quit smoking

People with HIV who smoke are more likely than those who don't smoke to develop cancers, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease. Smoking is also linked to poorer response to HIV treatment.

For support in quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Taking care of your mental health

Having HIV can be a source of major stress. HIV may challenge your sense of well-being or complicate existing mental health conditions. Good mental health will help you live your life to the fullest and is essential to successfully treating HIV.

Ask your health care provider, social worker, or case manager about local support groups. They may also refer you to a mental health provider who can give you the care you need.

Traveling with HIV

Traveling outside the United States may require special precautions for people with HIV. For example, travel to some countries can increase the chances of getting an severe illness.

Before you travel

  • Discuss medicine and vaccines with your health care provider at least 4 to 6 weeks before you travel.
  • Check your medical insurance for travel coverage. Consider purchasing additional travel insurance if your insurance doesn't cover emergency care or transportation in other countries.
  • Learn about the health risks in the places you plan to visit. Find out if the countries you plan to visit have special health rules for visitors with HIV.

During travel

  • Learn how to incorporate safer eating and drinking habits to reduce your chances of getting sick when you travel.
  • Avoid direct contact with animals and animal waste (stool). Animal stool in soil, water, or on sidewalks can be harmful to people with HIV.
  • Avoid hospitals and clinics where coughing tuberculosis (TB) patients are treated. See your health care provider when you return to discuss whether you should be tested for TB.

Resources and support

Find HIV care and treatment

Get help paying for HIV care

Find housing and job resources

Get help with legal issues

Find mental health treatment

Learn about HIV stigma and discrimination

View testimonials about dealing with stigma. CDC's Let's Stop HIV Together campaign has resources to help start conversations about stigma with your friends, family, and community.

Find traveling resources

Get information on older adults with HIV