Protecting your kidneys doesn't require anything out of the ordinary, just a talk with your doctor about your HIV and your overall health. Here are some questions to get you started.
How is my blood pressure?
Chances are your doctor checks your blood pressure using a medical instrument called a sphygmomanometer. Not only can high blood pressure (with a reading above 140/90) lead to kidney disease, it can also be caused by kidney disease. If your BP is high, you and your doctor should talk about meds and lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt in your diet, to keep it under control.
How is my glucose level?
Diabetes, another major kidney disease risk factor, is common among Latinos. Fortunately, doctors usually check glucose levels—the amount of sugar in the blood—every time they order a chemistry screen. This basic lab test, which checks for a variety of chemicals in a blood sample, is recommended on a regular basis for every HIV-positive person, especially those on treatment. Some HIV meds can increase the risk of diabetes, as can a poor diet, a family history of diabetes and too little exercise. Ask your doc for more info.
How’s my viral load?
HIV can reproduce inside the kidneys, damaging their filtering capabilities. This condition, known as HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN), is most common among black men with high viral loads. HIVAN is less common among Latinos. Not only is antiretroviral therapy an effective treatment for HIVAN, it may also have preventive benefits as well. You and your doctor can discuss when you should start or, if you’re on it, how it’s working for you.
How are my meds? Some drugs can increase the risk of kidney disease, including prescription HIV meds and over-the-counter pain relievers. It’s important to let your doctor know what you’re taking. One possibility is to keep a list of what and how much you take and when you take it. A quicker solution? Dump all your pills into a paper bag and let your doctor sort through it for meds that don’t mix well or might possibly be harmful to you.