hiv and physical fitness

According to, HIV is a retrovirus that is transmitted through contact with the body fluids of an HIV-infected individual. Those fluids might include the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk from a person who is HIV-positive or a mother who passes HIV onto her child.

HIV affects the body in various ways and stages depending on the viral load, the strain acquired, and the age of the person in question among other factors.

All in all, there are few standard effects to watch out for, especially when it comes to diet and exercise after an HIV diagnosis. This leads us to the subject of this discussion: how HIV affects physical fitness.

1)  Fatigue

Those infected with the virus, particularly those who don’t get treatment early on, might experience fatigue. Also, those whose HIV goes undiagnosed for a number of months will tend to feel weak and tired almost all the time.

This chronic fatigue is a direct result of the disease, and can be managed with improvement of diet and lifestyle.

Furthermore, fatigue in HIV patients is due to the fact that the body is using up a lot of energy to keep the virus at bay.

HIV attaches to these CD4 cells, and the virus infects other nearby cells.

It then uses them to multiply, and cause further infection throughout the body.

The HIV virus destroys the ability of its host to establish a healthy immune system by fighting off the healthy and infected cells, killing the host and itself.

The body then loses the ability to fight further infections, compromising the immune system over time.

HIV multiplies quite rapidly and as your body struggles to cope with the ever-increasing numbers, a lot of energy is expended to create new cells to replace damaged white blood cells.

2)  High blood pressure

Recent studies have shown that those living with the virus stand a higher chance of testing for high blood pressure than their uninfected counterparts.

Doctors say that due to the active involvement of their immune systems, inflammation tends to develop around the artery walls while the membranes stiffen. Consequently, this constricts these blood vessels thereby increasing the pressure of circulation.

This puts an increased strain on the heart which can then lead to congestive heart failure if not properly monitored.

Also, a number of reports have linked high blood pressure with the antiretroviral therapy used to treat HIV. In this case, high blood pressure should be considered a side effect of HIV treatment that is protecting its host from harsher side effects of the diagnosis.

According to, the wait before getting tested & treated can have a direct impact on the symptoms and side effects experienced.

As HIV primarily targets your immune system, if you wait too long, it may become impossible to live a normal life with HIV. Getting on a treatment plan will stabilize the immune system and eliminate the likelihood that you’ll contract further diseases and infections.

3)  Kidney disease

HIV can also trigger the onset of infection or kidney disease primarily because of the side effects it causes within the body. A combination of high blood pressure, and diabetes may eventually lead to kidney disease.

According to WebMD, HIV can cause inflammation in your brain and spinal cord. It can have adverse effects on the heart, liver, brain, eyes, kidneys, and bones.

Alternatively, the virus can also damage organs by allowing other diseases such as hepatitis C to fester.

In rare cases, antiretroviral therapy (ART) or the use of HIV medicines to treat an HIV infection, has been found to have a negative effect on the kidneys.

4)  Seroconversion illness

Seroconversion illness refers to the flu-like symptoms experienced during the early stages of infection. It usually happens between 2 and 6 weeks, as the body is speeding up the production of antibodies to fight the foreign pathogens.

Some of the effects at this phase encompass fever, swollen glands, sore throat, skin rash and joint or muscle pains that get in the way of day-to-day activities. These symptoms may flare up during workouts, or an abnormal amount of physical activity.

5)  Eating difficulties

Infected persons are also bound to have problems eating due to the development of mouth ulcers.

The formation of uncomfortable sores, inflammation, and lesions on the tongue or esophagus (i.e. the food pipe) can make it extremely unappealing to eat.

Consequently, this can lead to nutritional problems. Without a proper diet, many living with HIV experience massive weight loss. Furthermore, the lack of exposure to healthy bacteria in foods weakens the immune system over time.

6)  Balance issues

The HIV virus also targets the central nervous system thereby adversely affecting coordination. As mentioned, the virus can damage the spinal cord and restrict information sent from the brain to the rest of the body.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the results may include interference with balance and cognitive skills. Neurological problems result from damage caused by the virus itself, side effects such as cancers, that are tied to the disease, and even the drugs used to treat HIV.

However these neurological issues are more common among untreated cases after the HIV virus has resulted in AIDS.

Most of the effects of HIV on physical fitness stem from its attack on the white blood cells that are tasked with being the first and last line of defense in your body. If severely damaged, this paves the way for other infections and diseases discussed herein.

HIV is the least damaging when its host is tested and treated early on. With early treatment, those living with the virus have little to worry about and can expect to live a rather normal life.

By Caitlyn

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