Hesperian Health Guides

Staying Healthy for as Long as Possible

When a person has AIDS, the body’s immune system is no longer able to fight off common infections and illnesses. The immune system gets weaker with each illness, making it even less able to fight infection the next time. Without treatment, this continues until the person’s body is too weak to survive.

Preventing infections and illness with ART is the best way to slow down the weakening of the immune system. It is also important to treat any infections to keep them from spreading or getting worse. This way a person with HIV can stay healthy for as long as possible.

Preventing some infections with medicines

For persons with HIV, regular use of the antibiotic cotrimoxazole helps prevent pneumonia, diarrhea, and other infections. You should start taking it if you have problems with weight loss, sores or cracks around your lips, itching rashes, shingles, mouth ulcers, or frequent colds.

Take: cotrimoxazole 960 mg by mouth daily with plenty of water (2 tablets of 480 mg: 80 mg trimethoprim and 400 mg sulfamethoxazole). If possible, take it every day whether you feel sick or not.

IMPORTANT! Allergic reactions to cotrimoxazole are more common in persons with AIDS. Stop taking it if you get a new skin rash or any other sign of drug allergy.

Some women have more problems with yeast infections of the vagina when they take antibiotics. Eating yogurt or sour milk, or sitting in a bowl of water with yogurt or vinegar in it can help. For more information, see yeast infections of the vagina, yeast of the skin, and yeast of the mouth.

In some countries it is also recommended that people with HIV take medicines to prevent tuberculosis (TB). See for information about TB.

Mental Health

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HIV infection can be emotionally stressful. It is very common for people living with HIV to feel afraid and tense (anxiety), or very sad, or have no energy or pleasure in life (depression). Anxiety and depression can also weaken the body and make a person more likely to get sick. Good mental health helps us stay healthy and avoid illness.

A health worker can help you tell the difference between signs of illness that are caused by physical problems, and signs that are caused by anxiety or depression. Knowing the cause of a problem may make it easier to treat. It is possible to overcome feelings of anxiety and depression. See a counselor or join a support group to get help.

This page was updated:01 Feb 2021