HIV Medication

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If you are HIV positive the best way to help your immune system to stay strong and fight infection is to take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. 


HIV treatment involves taking drugs that reduce the amount of the virus in your body.

HIV medicine is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). This is not a cure for the disease. However, with proper adherence to treatment the virus can be suppressed. Most people can get the virus under control within six months if they are completely compliant to the treatment plan. Taking ART does not prevent transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases.


Treatment should be started as soon as possible after the initial diagnosis. ARTs are recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how long they’ve had the virus or how healthy they seem to be. Talk to your doctor about any medical conditions you may have or any other medication you are taking before starting treatment.


There are different lines of drugs available on the market at the moment. The fixed dose combination (FDC) is commonly prescribed. This is a combination of the drugs tenofovir, emtricitabine and efavirenz in one pill.


The amount of virus in the blood is called the viral load. Ensuring that you take your HIV medicine as prescribed will help keep your viral load low and it will also help to increase your CD4 cell (a type of immune cell) count. 

Antiretroviral therapy can make the viral load very low (called viral suppression). Viral suppression is defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood. When the ARTs are really working well, they can make the viral load so low that a test can’t detect it. This is called a lower than detectable viral load. Your doctor will have to draw blood to monitor your viral load. If your viral load goes down after starting HIV treatment, that means the drugs prescribed to you are working. Continue to take your medicine as prescribed.

If you skip your medication, even just every now and then, the virus can start multiplying fast. This could weaken your immune system and you can potentially become sick. Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load (or staying virally suppressed) is the best way to stay healthy and protect yourself and your loved ones.


Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window

Reference: Barnhart M, Shelton JD. ARVs: the next generation. Going boldly together to new frontiers of HIV treatment. Glob Health Sci Pract. 2015 Jan 27;3(1):1-11

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