From Oral Health to Relationships: 5 Things That Change When Living wi – LIFESTYLE BY PS icon

From Oral Health to Relationships: 5 Things That Change When Living with HIV

HIV can be an emotionally & physically draining disease to live with. However, an HIV positive diagnosis offers deeper healing than one might imagine in the beginning.

A daily treatment plan, diet & exercise, and invoking support from loved ones can help you to live an amazing, and long life - despite early feelings after diagnosis.

An HIV positive diagnosis is not a death sentence, and overcoming the initial shock following an HIV diagnosis will allow the disease to stabilize.

There may be challenges, but many people living with HIV have found a renewed sense of optimism & purpose because of their positive diagnosis.

I was the first person she told...

I was working in a plastic surgery center in Miami as a patient coordinator. I had very little medical background - it was more of a sales role, and the doctor was fueled by greed.

As I developed an understanding of the plastic surgery world, I began to care for the women whom I booked surgeries for.

I would enquire about their families, and try to prepare them mentally, physically, and emotionally for surgery.

One particular patient was a single mom that planned to get a Brazilian Butt Lift. She was assigned to me, and we got along really well. She told me about her insecurities and exactly why she felt she needed the surgery. A boyfriend had called her fat and said he never intended to marry her because she was overweight.

My heart broke for her in hearing this, but things got even worse a few weeks later. A few days before she was scheduled for surgery, she called me early in the morning. She told me she’d had her bloodwork done (protocol before surgery), and it came back HIV positive.

My heart sank. What was I supposed to say? I was the first person she told - and I guess I was the least threatening “friend” she had at the time. We’d only connected virtually and over the phone. Now I knew her deepest secret, and she knew very little about me...

She then asked me - a plastic surgery salesperson - “what should I do?” and whether she’d still be able to have the surgery...

I consoled her and decided to spend my day researching HIV, treatment, and how to psychologically support someone who has been diagnosed with HIV.

I found that with management of physical side effects, it is actually possible to live a better quality of life following an HIV-positive diagnosis.

The Initial Diagnosis

The single most important aspect of living with HIV is maintaining your mental & emotional health through the challenges that may arise.

This involves having a strong support system, discipline, and discernment despite all the odds stacked against you.

Further Research

I also found that one of the most common concerns expressed when someone is diagnosed with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the fear of being ostracized, rejected, or discriminated against. Living in constant fear and worry can actually make the symptoms worse, and it’s essential to create a safe & supportive space that allows the individual to thrive.

According to an article shared by Psycom, clinical depression affects 22% of the population living with HIV. Not only can the disease affect physical health - it may push psychological health to its breaking point. The single greatest takeaway I learned that day was that - she is in control. Avoiding the spiral of pessimism following an HIV diagnosis is critical.

To this day, I still wonder why she told me...first.

She has a job, a home, children, and was only in her 20s.

That had to be an incredibly hard experience for her, and it’s changed the way I view people living with HIV. The purpose of this article is to share the research I found regarding HIV diagnosis, and to shed some light on how normal those living with HIV are.

1)  Daily Medication & Oral Health

The first thing that will change is your daily routine. Taking responsibility for your psychological, emotional, and physical health is very important at this point. You can’t afford to slack off, hang around negative people, or waste time feeling stressed & insecure about your future. Now, your very life depends on it.

Medical cannabis can assist in the treatment of numerous diseases including ADHD, arthritis, heart disease, schizophrenia, sickle cell anemia, and HIV. If you’re not a big fan of pharmaceuticals, consult your doctor about incorporating medical cannabis into a treatment plan.

There are numerous naturopathic options to treat symptoms, reduce stress & anxiety. Negative emotions can indirectly complicate HIV symptoms & side effects, so it’s important that you allow daily medication to help regulate stress levels. Taking daily medication can be incredibly helpful, along with diet & exercise.

Oral Health

The mouth is often one of the primary areas where the body is affected when infected with HIV.  Due to a weakened immune system, those living with HIV become susceptible to infections. If not taken care of, this may lead to aching, pain, nausea, and even tooth loss.  

A few of the symptoms found in HIV patients:

  • Dry mouth
  • Thrush
  • Ulcerative periodontitis
  • Outbreaks of herpes simplex virus
  • Canker sores

Dental problems related to HIV can affect chewing or swallowing, and become some of the most annoying and painful side effects when you’ve contracted HIV. Further, this can lead to malnutrition, as you might have trouble masticating or digesting important nutrients.

Compromising the digestive system can also affect the absorption of your HIV medications.

The good thing is, regular visits to your dentist will help with maintaining oral health while living with HIV. One dentist in Hollywood mentions that brushing and flossing twice daily for two minutes or more will significantly increase oral hygiene although the immune system is compromised by the disease.

Additionally, you should tell your doctor if your HIV medicine is causing dry mouth. Ask what treatment is best for you. If you do not have a regular dentist, ask your primary care provider or clinic for a referral.

2)  Less Partying, More Socializing

After an HIV diagnosis, it’s important to avoid isolating yourself from friends and family. You may feel alone, frustrated, shameful about your status, or even depressed, but it’s important not to alienate yourself from your greatest support system during this time.

However, we must recognize that this may be counterintuitive. HIV is stigmatized and ostracized in our culture. But this can have very harmful effects on the treatment of the people affected by HIV.  

It’s important to surround yourself with supportive, understanding people, and avoid negative influences. Once diagnosed with HIV, avoid drug use and drinking alcohol at all costs. These psychoactive chemical compounds and keeping judgemental, negative people around can reduce the effectiveness of your treatment plan and make it harder to cope.

Furthermore, you may also experience the effects of substances with more intensity. In college, you may have been able to drink like a sailor, but with HIV, you may become dizzy or even pass out after just one beer.

We don’t know exactly why HIV patients experience such adverse side effects with alcohol & drug use, but it can be assumed that the immune system begins sending red flags to the body at the first sign of activity that could potentially compromise its the ability to fight & recover.

Out of an HIV-positive diagnosis, many develop incredible strength, self-reliance, and stronger relationships. To experience an overall improvement in quality of life despite an HIV-positive diagnosis, pay close attention to the company you keep.

3)  Diet & Exercise

Once diagnosed with HIV, happy brain chemicals like dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin are your best friends. Laughing, exercising, playing, socializing, and bonding will help the brain produce more of these chemicals.

It will help you to remain in a state “near bliss” despite any physical symptoms. This state of mental health & transparency is the healthiest place to be, giving the immune system a fighting chance.

Rather than expending energy on negative thinking, lean on the people that love and support you. Do the things that produce happy brain chemicals.

According to, Exercising burns fat, builds muscle mass, builds immunity, stimulates endorphins, keeps your heart healthy, and encourages the body to recover faster.

Eating a balanced diet reduces stress levels, lessens the energy expended in the digestion process, and helps the body metabolize and store energy faster, and more efficiently.

Your loss of muscle mass might make it incredibly hard to build strength when living with HIV, so you may have to tap into your willpower and intuition to stay strong.

4) Responsibility

According to, many states legally require you to tell your sexual partners if you're HIV-positive before having anal, vaginal, or oral sex.

You’re also required to tell drug-using partners before you share drugs or needles with them. Some states will criminally prosecute you if you don't inform partners of your HIV status beforehand, even if the other party does not become infected after being in contact with you.

Even if you’ve always been a responsible person, and you were infected with HIV by a cheating partner or unfortunate event - it’s important to share your status with the people around you.

Far more HIV-infected people than one might imagine are infected by someone close to them, someone they trusted. Hence, the stigma that all people with HIV are irresponsible is just, incorrect.

Out of fear for the health and safety of the sexually active population, the government stepped in. Unfortunately, this paradox has created a stigma around living with HIV.

The HIV-positive population is being forced to expose status, and simultaneously ostracized. It’s not an easy pill to swallow, and can be lonely at times. But it’s important to be honest with the people around you, and use your support system to overcome obstacles. As mentioned above,

HIV is not a death sentence, but a challenge that offers great opportunity for personal development. Because of this paradox, you will develop incredible mental strength living with HIV.

5) Relationships

To be honest with you, HIV-positive relationships are a tough one. Everyone deserves to be loved, and being single with an HIV-positive diagnosis is challenging.

The health challenges might make you want to isolate yourself, but you can benefit greatly from feeling supported by friends & family.

According to, there are numerous factors that lead to many people living with undiagnosed HIV. One is the fear of never being able to get close to anyone again.

However, there are STD and HIV dating websites, and resources to help you find love within and outside of the community. It may sound unattractive at first, but in reality, it’s just like any dating pool.

After reading all this, it might sound easier to avoid being tested for HIV. However, there are countless amazing love stories about people who met in spite of or because of an HIV-positive status.

According to a recent article published by the Chicago Tribune, there is a growing number of HIV serodiscordant couples - or "magnet couples" - who are attracted to each other despite one positive and one negative diagnosis.

If you are flexible and optimistic, an HIV-positive diagnosis presents the opportunity to embrace life from a new perspective. You will develop deeper relationships, and improve your overall physical & mental health because of HIV.

Take the opportunity to become introspective, prioritize the things you’d like to accomplish in life, show appreciation for friends & family that support you, and allow yourself to embrace lessons learned. Although the path may present challenges, the things that change when diagnosed with HIV aren’t all bad.