In this section we explain how HIV could affect your health. You will find information about certain symptoms of HIV that you may get from time to time and the different illnesses that you are at risk of developing.

The impact of HIV on your health varies from person to person. We’re not going to patronise you by saying that you’ll be absolutely fine, as some men still do have problems with HIV and a small proportion still develop AIDS, despite there being effective treatment for reducing the impact of HIV.

For most men, there’s no data around the impact that living with HIV will have on your life expectancy. This is because people are still living well on effective HIV treatment many years after being diagnosed, which is very good news. So, we can say that the vast majority of HIV positive men these days are able to look forward to a long and healthy life, with relatively few problems with symptoms or side effects from anti-HIV drugs.

Some men, however, find that they have some symptoms related to HIV. We talk more about this in the section on HIV-related Symptoms.

Left untreated, HIV would eventually damage your immune system severely enough for you to develop one or more specific opportunistic infections or tumours. We talk more about these opportunistic infections and tumours in the section on AIDS Defining Illnesses.

In addition to Aids defining illnesses, people with long term HIV infection are more susceptible to other illnesses. We talk more about these in the section on Non-Aids defining Illnesses.

Taking control of your general day to day health will give you the best chance of living healthily with HIV. It may sound like we’re playing the same old song again, but a healthy lifestyle can help to keep your immune system strong, improve your mental health and enable you to maintain your quality of life.

We talk more about taking care of your physical and mental health in the section on Looking After Yourself.

It’s important to remember that people with HIV get coughs and colds just like everyone else. Try not to worry every time you do feel ill, and assume that it must be to do with your HIV. If you feel you do worry about this too much then speak to your doctor or health adviser at your HIV clinic. They will be able to talk through your concerns and reassure you that the most usual illnesses probably have nothing to do with HIV.

For these everyday illnesses you should still continue to visit your GP. However, if you ever feel ill or notice something out of the ordinary that you think could be to do with HIV, then it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor at your HIV clinic. Usually there will be a simple explanation as to why you are feeling ill. Your doctor will be able to explore your symptoms until the problem can be sorted out.

If you need to see someone at your HIV clinic urgently then you can go to see the clinic’s on-call doctor at the drop-in service. This service is offered by most HIV clinics.

For more information about drop-in services at HIV clinics, go to the section about Doctors and Clinics.

"I had been feeling unwell for a few weeks so I went to my clinic to see the on-call doctor. He read through my case notes, gave me a general examination, x-rays, ultra sound and full blood tests. I was kept in for the day and by the end discovered that there was nothing really to worry about – I’d just picked up a mild virus – and my doctor told me just to get some rest. After talking to some other HIV positive people I found out that a few of them had had the same thing and so it was apparent that there was something going round. It was comforting to know that my doctor gave me all the tests he did to make sure that there was nothing going seriously wrong, and that I had his attention for a whole day!" (Tom, 45)