What Women Can Do to Seek the HIV Treatment They Deserve

It’s recently come to light through The New York Times that women are not likely to receive the same quality of HIV treatment as men do. Even though half of HIV patients are women, most research subjects are men. While that doesn’t sound all that problematic, it does mean that we are only figuring out how men respond to HIV medications, not women. And as The New York Times notes, it turns out women respond quite differently. But only 11% are represented in HIV cure trials. So it’s likely many medications and medical strategies are more focused to help men.

What’s more, women have a few other biological barriers to surviving an HIV infection. They are more likely to progress to AIDS faster than men. And the female hormone estrogen can make HIV dormant, making it more difficult for medication or the body’s immune system to kill the HIV virus.

But what does this all really mean? Surely, governments would have done something by now if HIV treatments were ineffective, right? Well, luckily, HIV treatments do work for women. They’re just not as effective as they could be.

For the time being, however, they are the only thing that’s available, so if you’re a woman with HIV, you will just have to rely on them until something better comes about. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t treat your HIV! You just need to consider applying the following.

Ask after antiretroviral therapy.

person holding two medicine pills

To start, you should quickly ask your doctor about antiretroviral therapy (ART). This therapy uses medication to keep HIV levels low in the body. Doing this allows the body time to heal its immune system and prevents HIV from being passed on.

Those who have no access or choose to not access ART may soon find their body’s health fading. Without ART, HIV is allowed to run rampant through the body and do severe damage to the immune system. And without a proper immune system, a body has no protection against illnesses caused by germs, bacteria, or infections.

To avoid this health concern, you should seriously consider taking ART medication like Retrovir (zidovudine). But for the best results, you should ask your doctor what will work best against your particular HIV condition. And it doesn’t hurt to do some personal research, keeping in mind the best practices of finding reliable health information on the Internet.

Change your lifestyle.

raw meat with spices on green ceramic plate

Outside of taking much-needed ART medication, you will also likely need to make some lifestyle changes to stay healthy. Some of these may include the following:

  • Avoiding foods that affect ART — Some foods, such as raw meats and fish, may interact negatively with HIV medication, so you are better off cutting them out of their diet entirely.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet — You should make sure you get six essential nutrients in your diet. Protein for muscle build-up and immune strength. Carbohydrates for energy. Fat for more energy. Vitamins for better body process regulation. Minerals for a boost to the effect of vitamins and to promote bodily tissue growth. Water for help with giving body cells shape. To determine how much of each is needed, a health-care professional should be consulted.
  • Exercising regularly — No matter a person’s condition, consistent exercise can help boost their body’s health. It can increase a person’s strength, endurance, fitness, and immune system. And women with HIV have no limitations on what exercises they can do.

Take travel precautions.

moving train near trees

When traveling abroad, make sure you take precautions to avoid getting an opportunistic infection. Even if your immune system is doing particularly well with treatment, it is still likely a bit weakened and more vulnerable to infections during travel. So try to do the following before you leave:

  • Talking to a health-care provider — A health-care provider can let you know if there are any health risks in the areas you plan on visiting and whether or not you should take any travel medication. On top of that, they can help you plan for a medication you might need to combat common conditions like traveler’s diarrhea and specific vaccinations.
  • Coming up with protection against insects — Some insects like mosquitoes can carry around diseases, such as malaria or Zika, so you should bring items that will protect you from them. These may involve a hefty supply of insect repellent, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, a hat to protect your head, and a mosquito net.
  • Planning for poor food safety — Not all countries will have the same level of hygiene when it comes to food. So certain foods and even water may contain germs. You can avoid getting infections from these germs by eating only hot foods, avoiding raw food and unpasteurized dairy products, and drinking bottled beverages.

Remember to stay calm.

Having an HIV diagnosis can be scary, but don’t panic! Many other women are in your situation while still living happy, healthy lives. So take a moment to calm down and then stick to the previously mentioned HIV treatments. They will help you avoid the worst of HIV and enjoy the best parts of good health.