HIV-positive people often experience rapid weight loss, commonly referred to as wasting. Wasting happens to people both on and off HIV medications. People experiencing wasting can lose 5 to 10 percent or more of their total body weight in just six months. Not all of the weight lost is body fat. In fact, large portions of lost mass can come from tissue and muscle. Keep in mind that each person's body responds differently to HIV, and some will still experience weight loss despite their best efforts to prevent it.
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Make sure you're eating, at minimum, enough calories to maintain your weight. Also take into account additional calories you burn through exercise. Talk to your doctor about appetite-enhancing drugs that can counter the appetite-suppressing effects of many HIV medications. Try multiple small meals and snacks throughout the day if you have trouble finishing the regular three meals.
Work with your doctor to find the right HIV medication regimen. Opt for one that controls your disease progression with the fewest side effects. HIV medications, and HIV itself, can cause diarrhea, vomiting, mouth sores and side effects that limit your ability to eat foods or absorb nutrients. Sometimes tweaking medications or adding new ones to your treatment plan can help with side effects.
Weight lift or do strength-training exercises at least two to three times per week. These activities will help build up muscle tissue and prevent muscle loss associated with wasting. Work each major muscle group, including your arms, legs, back, chest, shoulders and abdominal muscles. Never work the same muscle group two days in a row to help prevent muscle injury. Even lifting very small weights at home can help.
Talk to a counselor or therapist about your feelings associated with your illness. HIV patients often experience depression, which can contribute to a loss of appetite or disinterest in taking good care of yourself. Work with your therapist to develop a treatment plan that may include medications, coping strategies, group therapy and support groups.
Consider prescription treatments that build up muscle strength and tissue. Ideal medications will also prevent muscle and tissue loss, according to the Tufts University School of Medicine. Treatments include steroids, testosterone injections and human growth hormone. Talk to your doctor to see if one or more of these treatments has benefits that outweigh their risks.