FACTS ABOUT HIV TREATMENT
Effective HIV combination therapy prevents the virus from multiplying in the body and allows people with HIV to lead longer, healthier lives. Most people on treatment can achieve optimal viral suppression to the point where the viral load is too low to be detected by standard measurement (undetectable viral load).
Fact: The best time to treat is now.
Recent research has shown that early, if not immediate, treatment increases life expectancy, improves health and prevents serious illness by more than 50% compared to those who delay starting treatment.
Fact: An undetectable viral load doesn’t mean you no longer have HIV.
Rather, it means HIV has been reduced to very low levels that can only be detected by specialised laboratory tests. Having an undetectable viral load has many health benefits and greatly lowers the risk of transmitting HIV.
Fact: Treatments – and side effects – have changed … for the better.
In the early days of HIV treatment, there were lots of pills to take at very specific times and treatment often caused severe and debilitating side effects. New and improved treatments are much easier and more convenient to take, have a much lower risk of side effects, and are much more effective at controlling HIV.
Fact: Treatments are far easier to take than they used to be.
In fact, most people are now taking only a few tablets once or twice a day. Some people take only a single tablet each day.
TREATMENTS AND ADHERENCE
Many people with HIV report being surprised about how easy today’s treatments are to take. Maximising the effectiveness of the treatment you’re taking comes down to what’s known as ‘adherence’ – taking your treatment strictly as prescribed.
It’s important not to miss too many doses as HIV can become resistant to treatment. If that happens, your viral load can rise from undetectable levels and you may need to change your treatment combination to a more complicated one to bring your viral load back down again.
Your doctor will help you decide on a treatment combination that best suits your lifestyle, and can offer information and strategies to help you adhere to your medication. Information and support can make adherence easy and before you know it, taking your treatment will become second nature – much like brushing your teeth.