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Discharge Instructions for HIV Infection and AIDS

You’ve been diagnosed with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). This is the virus that causes AIDS, a disease than can be life threatening. HIV attacks the body's immune system, making it tougher to fight infection. For most people, infections are normally not severe or fatal. However, for people with HIV or AIDS, these infections can cause death because the body can’t fight them. Unlike other viruses, the body can't get rid of HIV. Here's what you can do to help stay healthier and prevent the spread of HIV.

Medical care

  • Take your medicine exactly as directed.

    • Don’t take any other medicine, including over-the-counter drugs or supplements, unless your healthcare provider says it’s OK.

    • Report any side effects to your provider.

  • See your healthcare provider regularly. Your provider will need to follow you closely for the rest of your life.

  • Tell all your healthcare providers that you are HIV-positive. This includes dentists and dental hygienists.

  • Talk to your provider before getting vaccines. There are some vaccines you should avoid.

Help prevent the spread of HIV

  • Practice safe sex. Use condoms correctly and use them every time you have sex. Don't risk spreading your illness to noninfected people.

  • Ask any sexual partners to be tested for HIV. If you are in a stable sexual relationship, your uninfected partner may want to discuss with his or her provider taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent spread of HIV.

  • Never share needles or other equipment for drug use.

  • If you get tattoos or have any parts of your body pierced, be sure that the needles are destroyed afterward.

  • Don't donate blood, plasma, semen, or organs.

  • If you are a woman, talk with your healthcare provider before getting pregnant.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about other very rare ways HIV may be spread.

Reduce your risk for infection

  • Take care of your skin.

    • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water and rub your hands together. If soap and water is not available, use alcohol-based hand cleaner. Make sure you wash your hands before and after taking care of any cuts, scrapes, or wounds.

    • Use hypoallergenic sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater.

    • Avoid direct sun exposure on your skin.

    • Use an electric razor for shaving.

  • Ask your doctor before using cosmetics, contact lenses, tampons, or douches.

  • Avoid contact with farm, stray, or unknown animals.

    • If you do have contact with an animal, wash your hands afterward.

    • Avoid contact with pet urine or stool. Wear gloves if you might come in contact with pet urine or stool.

    • Don’t clean litter boxes, cages, or aquariums.

  • Keep your home clean.

    • Clean floors, carpets, furniture, and countertops regularly.

    • Be sure your bathroom is clean.

    • Wash your hands after handling trash.

    • If you have a pet, talk with your provider about safe pet ownership.

  • Don't eat undercooked, unpasteurized, or unwashed foods.

  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.

  • Don’t use portable humidifiers or vaporizers.

  • Avoid contact with anyone who has a cold, the flu, or other contagious condition. This includes measles, chickenpox, herpes, viruses, pinkeye, cough, or sore throat.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.


When to seek medical care

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Blurred vision or other eye problems

  • Trouble concentrating or worsening tiredness

  • Wheezing, trouble breathing, or shortness of breath

  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Rash or hives

  • Cut or rash that swells, turns red, feels hot or painful, or begins to ooze

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Diarrhea that does not go away after 2 loose stools

  • Pain or cramping in your belly (abdomen)

© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.