Living with HIV

Treatment

Getting treatment and staying on it is very important. Here is some useful information about why it is so important and a tool to allow you to have enhanced conversations with your doctor.

Living with HIV

Today, HIV is something you can live a long and healthy life with 1. Research shows that an HIV-positive 20-year-old starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) can expect to have a life expectancy similar to that of the general population.2

Being able to achieve this predominantly comes from starting treatment early after diagnosis, and to the introduction of many ARTs and combinations of ARTs over the past 30 years.

What does being undetectable mean?

HIV weakens your immune system by destroying a type of white blood cell called a CD4 cell. CD4 cells help your body fight infections. HIV uses CD4 cells to multiply (make copies of itself), killing them in the process. If left untreated, the number of CD4 cells in the blood (CD4 count) will decrease as the amount of virus in the blood (viral load) increases.

The goal of HIV treatments is to therefore lower people’s viral load (the amount of HIV virus in their blood) enough to make the virus ‘undetectable’.

‘Undetectable’ means that there is very little HIV in one sample of blood, but it doesn’t mean that your HIV has disappeared.3  Achieving undetectable is a great step as it means your HIV has a minimal chance of progressing and it effectively eliminates the risk of passing HIV onto someone else. However, it doesn’t mean that HIV has been cured, so you should keep taking HIV treatments as prescribed and go for regular visits with the doctor.

How do I make sure I am on the right treatment?

There are many HIV treatment options available and talking to your doctor will help you find the best treatment for you. Read the ‘Talking with a doctor’ page for more information.

Your stories relevant to treatment

References

  1. Murungi A, et al. Experience of living with HIV: Diagnosis & Disclosure – findings from the Positive Perspectives study. Presented at the IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2017), 23‑26 July 2017, Paris, France. Abstract: WEPED1423
  2. Katz I and Maughan-Brown B. Improved life expectancy of people living with HIV: who is left behind? Lancet HIV. 2017 Available at: http://thelancet.com/. Last accessed April 2017.
  3. Pebody R. NAM AIDSmap. Undetectable viral load. January 2017. Available at: http://www.aidsmap.com/Undetectable-viral-load/page/1320141/. Last accessed July 2017.

For further information, please consult your doctor