People diagnosed with HIV today have dozens of treatment options, including some medications you take only once a day.
START TREATMENT EARLY
As soon as you test positive, the first thing to do–even if you don’t feel sick–is find a medical provider who is has plenty of experience treating HIV.
People are able to best maintain their health the sooner they start HIV medications after being diagnosed. The sooner you start taking medications, the sooner you’ll be able to get your viral load down to undetectable levels.
People living with HIV who maintain undetectable viral loads improve their own health. In addition, people who have been undetectable for at least six months and remain virally suppressed do not transmit HIV to sex partners.
In San Francisco and increasingly elsewhere, health care providers help people get started on HIV medications the very same day that they’re diagnosed. Ask for referrals at an HIV organization in your area, or search this online directory.
ADHERENCE IS KEY
Take your meds exactly as prescribed, whether once daily or multiple times daily, to keep the virus suppressed. Missing doses or stopping treatment can allow HIV to become “drug resistant,” meaning certain medications no longer keep the virus in check.
Finding a treatment regimen that is right for you, and learning ways to stick with it, can help you live long and well with HIV.
A Guide to Living Well
Living Positively is a free resource with vital information about HIV health and wellness topics, including medications, sex & dating with HIV, disclosure, becoming undetectable, and so much more.
HIV medications are called antiretrovirals, sometimes called “ARVs.” ARVs keep HIV under control, and prevent HIV from making copies of itself or “replicating.” The goal of antiretrovirals is to suppress the ability of the virus to replicate, lowering the presence of virus in your body to “undetectable” levels.
Today, most people starting medication for HIV only need to take one pill each day. This single pill usually contains three or more HIV medications. There are multiple HIV medication options your healthcare provider may help you choose from, depending on factors specific to you and your health.
HIV is a virus that invades cells that are part of our immune system. Our immune system is our body’s natural defense system against disease and infections. HIV takes over immune system cells, called CD4 cells or T-cells. The virus uses these cells to make copies of itself. Over time without HIV treatment, the virus makes thousands to millions of copies of itself in a person’s body. These virus cells slowly destroy the immune system, leaving a person vulnerable to other infections and conditions. Those infections, called opportunistic infections, can be fatal.
These days, HIV medications are quite effective and the benefits of taking them outweigh the side effects, which are uncommon. In general, less than 10% of people starting HIV medications experience issues with their medications that require a change in medication. Talk to your health care provider if you experience any symptoms or other problems with your medications at any point in your treatment.
Take your medications, they will save you the difficulties of previous times. Remember, undetectable = untransmittable. Face your new life with hope and assuredness that you will live long and healthily as will those you encounter with the same diagnoses.San Francisco community member Living with HIV since 1980
Sexual Health Brochures
Check out our collection of gender-inclusive STI brochures--available to download, for free...
Injectable HIV treatment can be “life-changing”
Barb Cardell (they/them), who has been living with HIV since 1991, remembers when their HIV...
65 is the new 80 for those of us living with HIV
For National HIV/AIDS & Aging Awareness Day (NHAAD), Hank Trout shares the effects of premature aging with HIV, and calls us all to support the aging long-term survivors in our own lives.
PrEP Facts: Introduction & FAQ
Learn more about Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and how this HIV prevention strategy may be useful for you or someone you know.
New WHO report shows increased risk of severe COVID-19 for people with HIV–here’s what it means
Here are some of the main take-aways from the report for people living with HIV in the Bay Area and in the U.S., according to our vice president of medical affairs.
Overcoming shame, stigma & structural barriers to provide HIV care for Spanish-speaking communities
At SFAF, health navigators bring people into HIV care with trauma-informed support and help accessing HIV medications and benefits.
We’re providing information about changes to our programs and services during COVID-19, how to prevent the spread of the virus.
HIV long-term survivors call for additional mental health care in San Francisco
Living through COVID-19 is compounding the anxiety, loss, and social isolation faced by some HIV long-term survivors. Additional mental health care support is much needed, say activists.