PLHIV Health, Nutrition and Fitness

Posted by Pozziepinoy on 8:46 AM
Project Red Ribbon has a Nutritionist, an American Licensed Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant, and a fitness professional. The Foundation, since it is focused on health has consulted with our volunteers and has discussed nutrition and fitness for people living with HIV (PLHIV).


Nutrition is very important to everyone, including PLHIV. There should always a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the diet. However, during the course of the antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, there are food to watch out for to not cause allergic reactions which may be mistaken to be the side effects of a specific ARV. Also, there are some medicines that can cause lipodystrophy and heart diseases, thus a PLHIV needs to either cut down on fats or there is a bigger need to have a regular exercise and active lifestyle.


Activity is very important to everybody. This improves the general body condition of the an individual. For PLHIV, fitness is imperative as we are talking about a disease that can affect different body organs as a result of the ARV therapy and the disease process itself.

Improving the fitness level of an individual, in our case, the PLHIV, means a regular physical and mind and body activities and workout.

During Initial ARV Treatment

During the trial period of 2 weeks to one month, wherein both the client and the HIV doctor monitor the side effects of each ARV in a cocktail, the client is advised not to eat any food that may trigger side allergies. The reason for this is that this may be assumed by the doctor to be a side effect. To isolate only the possible side effects, the client is advised not to eat any food which the client has allergies to or any sea food, eggs and fish that may cause itchiness. While under observation, the client is advised to drink more than 8 glasses of water daily, to limit down possible side effects.

While on ARV trial, the client is also advised to eat certain natural food that would limit the side effects. For instance, an ARV that may cause low hemoglobin will be advised to increase iron rich food intake. 

While on ARV trial period, no vitamins or any supplements should be taken in. While on ARV trial period, only conservative management of any fever, colds and flu should be taken. 

Early active lifestyle is advised to metabolize food intake and to encourage client to drink more water. However, caution should be taken for ARV medicines that have dizziness, vomiting, hypotension and low blood count side effects. Best is to seek consult with the HIV doctor prior to any fitness activities one will do to avoid any accidents.


Antiretroviral medicines are highly toxic medicines that may cause serious damage to internal organs if not monitored or if additional intake of other medicines or food supplements are taken. Thus prior to any intake of medicines or any food supplements, the HIV doctor should be informed. There are ARV medicines that are already burdening the liver and kidneys thus it is imperative that the client should consult the HIV doctor prior to any intake. Also, food that can also burden these organs should be limited. However, a good fitness program can counter these effects through body metabolism thus nutrition and fitness should come hand in hand during this period. 

An increase of body metabolism can also control these side effects. Internal burning and utilization of calories, increase sweating and increase urination can decrease the side effects by not allowingb the toxicities to stay inside the body. 

A fitness program scheme that can increase metabolism should be done on a regular basis. A minimum of 3 times a week workout plan is enough to get good results. An active lifestyle is then encouraged. A good program is a combination of active lifestyle, conditioning exercises, cardiovascular workouts and strength training. Add mind and body workouts such as yoga, tai-chi, etc. can holistically and dramatically improve health and well-being.


Knowing the long term side effect ts of each ARV in a given cocktail is very open. One needs to be open about this to the HIV doctor, to proper monitor the status of any vital organ that the ARBV will be affecting.

Liver Issues.

Since all the HIV medicines are toxic to the liver, the liver function tests should be yearly done to know the health of this organ. Everything is metabolized in the liver but protein is the one that heavily burdens it. Thus it is needed to be extra watchful to protein intakes and supplements. Always consult the HIV doctor especially the bodybuilders because our priority is the maintenance of health.

Kidney Issues.

Balance of salt and water should be monitored especially to PLHIV who are taking ARVs that may be burdening the kidneys. Levels of creatinine should be monitored on a yearly basis to check the kidney functioning. 

Bone Density.

Increase in calcium intake can alter side effects affecting bone density. Ask the HIV doctor if the ARV cocktail has a component that would affect bone density. 

Exercise can also strengthen bone and improve density. Stress to bones strengthen then. High impact cardiovascular exercises and weights training are examples of stress that can strengthen the bones.


Muscles may also be affected by ARV’s. With proper ARV management with the consultation with a HIV doctor and a certified fitness professional who is also knowledgeable about nutrition, one can gain success to counter a side effect that may result to muscle wasting and weakness.

Fat Deposition.

One of the most challenging long side effect is this. Bad cholesterol increase in the body caused by certain ARVs can cause heart diseases and cerebrovascular accidents (i.e.,, stroke). However, this is another drug-induced metabolic disorder that can be countered through proper nutrition and regular fitness program. Yearly chest X-ray can determine any heart size anomalies. A yearly blood chemistry which would include tests for cholesterol levels can assess any possible changes that may lead to a more lief threatening side effect.

Lipodystrophy is another long term side effect of certain ARVs. Ask your doctor if your combination cocktail can cause this. This is another metabolic disorder, thus this can be countered by proper nutrition and a good fitness program. 

Skin Disorders

There are some ARVs that can cause darkening of skin and on and off emergence of skin rash. Once again, ask the HIV doctor is if your cocktail can produce this side effect. Skin rashes may also be a result of increasing toxicities of the liver so further assessment should be taken. Any skin medication should also be with a go signal from the HIV doctor. 


HIV ARV treatment is for now, a lifetime treatment. For now, maintaining a good health is important to improve the quality of life. Project Red Ribbon continues to advocate proper nutrition and fitness programs to help alleviate and prevent chronic diseases that may arise secondary to the side effects of the ARV. We continue to promote constant communication with the HIV doctors from the very start, to know and understand the purpose and possible short and long term effects of the ARV so that they can be prevented from the very first start of the treatment regimen.


TRR HIV Hotline Numbers 


Office: TThS Phone Counselling
(02) 656-7297

If you want to join a private HIV support group in Facebook, please add Darwin Tenoria, the TRR Program Director and request to be added in the group. We have a lot of PLHIV, counselors, HIV doctors, advocates and supporters who you can talk to.

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-Project Red Ribbon-

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