HIV is a manageable medical condition. HIV treatment allows most people with HIV to lead long and productive lives, and can also prevent HIV transmission. Evidence shows that current HIV treatments are well tolerated and effective.
What is HIV treatment?
HIV is treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART). Most treatments require you to take one or two tablets a day. There are different medication options and you should work with your HIV doctor to find the right one for you.
HIV treatment reduces the amount of HIV in your blood stream, to the point where HIV cannot be detected via a blood test – this is called ‘undetectable viral load’. This means that your immune system can recover or remain healthy. Medication must be taken as prescribed. Stopping and starting, or taking them randomly, can lead to drug resistance.
When should I start treatment?
It is important to regularly discuss your situation with your HIV doctor. We know that starting HIV treatment can improve your long-term health and significantly reduces the chance of transmitting HIV. There is now compelling evidence which shows that starting treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis improves health outcomes. However, taking HIV medication requires commitment so it’s best to start when you are ready. Things you and your doctor should consider include:
- Your viral load. HIV treatment reduces the amount of HIV in your blood
- Your CD4: CD4 cells (also known as T-Cells) play an important role in our ability to fight off infection. To manage HIV, a doctor will take a sample of blood to see how many CD4 cells are present and from that work out how well you are fighting the HIV infection. In Australia HIV treatment is now available for everyone with HIV, and is subsidised if you are Medicare eligible.
- Relationships and family: if you are in a sexual relationship or thinking about having children. Being on treatment virtually eliminates your risk of transmitting HIV to your partner during sex, and to your baby during pregnancy and birth.
- Your lifestyle: When you start treatment, you need to think about how it’s going to fit in with your life. You should take your pills as prescribed every day… Will you take them in the day or at night? Do you need to take them with food? What will work best for you? If you are going through a rough patch or feeling very stressed, you might need to put some strategies in place to make sure you don’t miss doses. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
What about side effects?
HIV medications have greatly improved in recent years and most people find modern HIV medications easy to take. Side-effects are usually non-existant or manageable and should be discussed with your doctor.
- In NSW HIV S100 treatments are now free! You can also get your script filled at a community pharmacy if you want. For more information See Positive Life’s website The Choice is Yours
- The AFAO, Aidsmap and NAPWHA websites have detailed information about treatment.
- Taking Eviplera? What should I eat? Have a look at some examples of meals from the NHS (UK).