Medical advances mean that there is now a range of treatments for HIV. The medications used today to treat HIV are more effective than ever, have fewer side effects and have significantly enhanced the life expectancy of people living with HIV. When you attend your appointments at your sexual health clinic, your HIV team will be able to tell from your results when the time is right for you to start taking HIV medication.
HIV is treated with antiretrovirals, a powerful combination of drugs that work by stopping the virus replicating and by suppressing the level of virus in the body, allowing the immune system to recover. If taken as prescribed, these meds are so effective that the virus can become undetectable in the body meaning that the individual cannot pass the virus on to others.
The drugs are either combined into one single daily pill or provided in several separate pills to be taken in combination. Once you start treatment for HIV, you will need to continue to take the medication every day, at the time prescribed, for the rest of your life.
The treatment only works if the drugs are taken daily at the same time of day. It is important to adhere to this regime as the HIV virus can be become resistant to the drugs if too many doses are missed. If you do become resistant, you may have to change the treatment that you’re taking. Although there is a variety of treatments available, resistance ultimately reduces the treatment options that are available to you.
Many people do not get any side effects from their medication, but some people experience short term side effects such as headaches or nausea when they first start taking HIV medication. These usually improve after a few weeks but talk to your HIV team if they continue as they will be able to offer alternatives.
Other medications can interact with your HIV meds, so it is important to inform your GP and pharmacist what meds you are taking for HIV when you need treatment for other conditions
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