Balancing other aspects of health while living with HIV.

Model portrayal above

Model portrayal above

How do I manage my HIV and my mental health?

Talk to your healthcare provider about HIV treatment that, when taken as prescribed, may help get your viral load to undetectable and keep it that way. Undetectable means that there is so little virus in the blood that a lab test can't measure it. Getting your HIV viral load under control is a key step in your treatment journey, as is focusing on other important aspects of your health.

Another important aspect of your health is your mental health which is important at all points along your journey living with HIV. Make sure you are taking time for yourself whenever you need to. And if you need help, it's important to ask for help. If you need additional support, that is normal, too.

When do I start treatment?

You can start treatment as soon as your healthcare provider (HCP) recommends it. Some treatments can even be started the same day that you are diagnosed.

Real person living with HIV.

HIV: Ken Williams | Ken like Barbie, a healthier life

KEN: I’m Ken Williams and ... I feel good.

I feel healthy.

And I’m living with HIV.

I’m an advocate, an activist. And I video blog at

That’s who I am.

And I’m living my truth.

I want to change the way people think about HIV.

A healthier life and HIV are not ... they’re not opposites.

Not now.

And everyone, I believe, should know that.

There may not be a cure for HIV, but ... I’m still in charge of my life.

And I’m taking care of my health.

And if I can do it ... well I think you can, too!

It starts with something that may seem basic. Treating HIV.

And starting treatment as soon as possible.

HIV medicine lowers the amount of virus in my body.

That helps keep me healthy.

You should talk to a doctor about it.

It also means there’s less virus to pass on to a partner through sex.

It’s called treatment as prevention.

The point is, you can help protect others by staying on treatment.

And, of course, practicing safer sex.

I can’t say that enough.

And for me, taking medicine every day, it’s like—part of my routine. And a reminder for me to take a moment and think about the possibilities in my life.

After that, I do what everyone else does.

I eat right.

I work out.

I see my doctor.

And that’s the really important part. The doctor part.

I talk to my doctor. About how I feel. How I’m doing. About my medicine and what’s right for me.

That relationship is all about you. Find a doctor who can be your partner. Who listens to you. Who cares about what matters to you.

OK, so this is where I get on my soapbox.

Because the people around you ... your doctor, your friends, they’re really important to your life.

Look, being diagnosed with HIV is real.

And I’m not gonna say that I didn’t cry, because I cried. But you know what, when the tears dried, I was still standing.

And my life was still my own.

You know and I looked around, and a lot of other people were standing next to me.

I felt support. I felt love. And that’s something that we all deserve, too.

It’s been seven years. And I am here.

“Hi, city!”

Being Ken. Without apology.

I live in the present.

And that’s all any of us can do.

Let our voices be heard. And live our best life every day.

I am Ken Williams.

A healthier life

An important way to stay healthy while living and aging with HIV is to keep checking in with your healthcare provider about your health, not just now, but in the future. Establishing a routine of talking to your healthcare provider about all parts of your health can help you be proactive when anything else occurs.

HIV: Ken Williams | Ken Like Barbie, a Healthier Life

What if I am struggling with alcohol or substance use issues?

If you are currently struggling with alcohol or substance use, it is important to know that this can affect your immune system, can impact how your medicine affects your body, and can make it harder for you to reach your treatment goals.

If you need help dealing with these issues, talk to your healthcare provider. If you are looking for any resources to help you deal with these issues, here is additional support that may help.

I am living with HIV. Is smoking worse for me?

Smoking is dangerous for everyone. It harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and affects overall health. However, the risks of serious health consequences are higher for people with HIV.

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
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Serious HIV-related infections, including bacterial pneumonia

If you need any support to help stop smoking, here is some support that may help.

What if I am on other medications?

If you are on any other medications, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider about them. It not only helps give them a full picture of your health, but it also informs them when selecting or switching to the right HIV treatment for you.

Know that many HIV medicines can be taken safely with other medicines, including hormone therapy. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about any possible drug interactions with HIV medicines because different medicines may affect how your HIV medicine works. And different HIV medicines may affect how other drugs work.

Pregnant woman with HIV.

I am living with HIV, and I'm pregnant or planning to be. What should I do?

There are considerations that many people living with HIV need to discuss with their healthcare provider. Women living with HIV may also have additional considerations when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. But a diagnosis of HIV does not mean you can’t have children. Talk to your healthcare provider to discuss the appropriate care for you and your pregnancy.

You should know there are risks to pregnancy and childbirth if you are living with HIV, and if you are living with HIV and taking treatment. That's why it's important for women living with HIV to have an open and honest conversation with their healthcare provider about whether they want to have children now or in the future and the options available to them if they do.

Know that you can take steps to protect your health. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Taking HIV treatment as prescribed, along with any other guidance from your health team, may help lower the chances of transmitting HIV to your baby during pregnancy and childbirth. Be sure to talk to your healthcare team before and throughout your pregnancy journey

  • Healthcare providers do not recommend women living with HIV breastfeed children because an undetectable viral load does not entirely prevent the risk of HIV transmission through breast milk

Check to see if there's a healthcare provider in your area with experience treating women living with HIV.