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.
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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
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