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1. Does fatigue ever get in the way of your daily activities, like work, socializing, or enjoying life?

Fatigue is common among people with HIV. If you can identify the cause of it, you may find more energy to do the things you enjoy.

Your doctor can work with you to find the cause of your fatigue. It may be helpful to keep a journal about when you feel tired and how much you sleep. This can help your health care team better pinpoint what may be prompting the issue.

Fatigue may stem from a wide variety of causes, which can include:
  • Medications that treat HIV or other conditions
  • The effects of the virus itself
  • Anemia (low levels of red blood cells)
  • Pain
  • Mental health conditions, like stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Other infections that may accompany HIV, which affect your body’s defense system
  • A lack of adequate sleep
  • Low levels of thyroid hormones or testosterone
Once you know which of these factors might be affecting your energy levels, your physician can help you make a plan to combat the fatigue. If you still feel tired after making the changes your health care team recommends, you might want to try rationing your energy by prioritizing your most important activities first each day.

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2. Do feelings of fear, anxiety, or depression keep you from doing the things you enjoy?

People with HIV have a higher risk of mental health issues than those in the general population, but there are ways to reduce feelings of depression, stress, anxiety, and fear. 

If you ever do face mental health issues, you can talk to your health care team about whether interventions like taking antidepressants, practicing mindfulness, or visiting a therapist might be helpful for you.   

In addition, make sure you get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and get adequate exercise. Connect with supportive people in your life who you can talk to about your fears, stresses, and other feelings. Starting or staying on a medication regime to treat your HIV can also help improve your mental health. Knowing that you’re taking steps to actively treat your condition can lead to more positive feelings. 

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3. Is weight gain causing stress or self-esteem issues?

Weight gain can happen after an HIV diagnosis, often due to antiretroviral therapy (ART) medications. It may also be because your body is returning to a healthy weight after initially losing weight from untreated HIV.

Some ART medications have been known to cause significant weight gain, and the weight may come on quickly and unexpectedly. This can not only cause problems with self-esteem, but it can also lead to other health issues that are exacerbated by weight gain, such as cardiovascular problems and diabetes.

If weight gain does ever cause you stress or self-esteem issues, talk to your doctor to find out whether your medications may be the cause. Your health care team may be able to find solutions that can help bring you back to a weight where you feel more comfortable and confident.

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4. Are you able to get some exercise every week?

Exercising can help build muscle, reduce stress, and improve your cardiovascular health. It may even help boost your mood. As long as your doctor has cleared you for exercise, you can do both aerobic activity and strength training to stay healthy.

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5. Do you often feel tired after eating carbohydrates?

Feeling tired after eating carbohydrates could mean you are experiencing blood sugar issues

People with HIV are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than those in the general population. Diabetes occurs when glucose levels in the blood (referred to as blood sugar) are elevated and your body can’t adequately process the glucose, so it remains in your bloodstream.

Symptoms of diabetes may include urinating a lot, feeling thirstier and hungrier than usual, fatigue, blurry vision, unexplained weight loss, and sores that don’t heal. If you recognize any of these symptoms, you may want to have your blood glucose levels tested. Because blood sugar issues can lead to other problems involving your kidneys, heart, and circulatory system, always talk to your health care team if you encounter these symptoms.
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