All About HIV Treatment
There are thousands of gay guys living with HIV in NSW who lead lives just like guys who are HIV negative. Australia’s high quality HIV services and health system allow people living with HIV to be very well supported in terms of treatment and care.
Effective HIV combination therapy prevents the virus from multiplying in the body. Most people on treatment can achieve an undetectable viral load (UVL), which provides great health benefits and stops onward transmission.
But here’s the thing, you need to be on treatment and, ideally, on it earlier rather than later for optimum, long-term health.
4 FACTS ABOUT HIV TREATMENT
- Treatments have changed
In the very early days of HIV treatment, someone was required to take lots of pills which often caused quite severe and debilitating side effects. Now with a wide range of new and improved medicines, treatment is far less toxic, has a much lower risk of side effects, is better at controlling HIV and some people only take one tablet once day.
- Undetectable equals safe
Treatment can lead to someone achieving an undetectable viral load (UVL) which is one of the most effective safe sex strategies. In fact, based on two international research studies, there have been no transmissions recorded from people with an undetectable viral load having sex with regular partners, despite more than 89,000 acts of condomless sex between gay couples.
- A UVL 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 blood tests.
- The best time to treat is now
Since April 2014, every person diagnosed with HIV is able to start treatment as soon after diagnosis. 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.
Fewer side effects
Today’s treatments for HIV have fewer side effects than treatments of previous years. We now have evidence that shows the benefits of treatment outweigh concerns around the negative impacts of these medications, especially if your CD4 counts are low.
If you find the type of HIV treatment you’re on is causing severe side effects, talk to your doctor as there may be alternatives you could try.
The Party Won’t Stop
Unlike some medications, alcohol and HIV treatment do not impact negatively when taken together meaning you can still have that mimosa at brunch.
When it comes to recreational drugs though, some treatments can make the effect of drugs like ecstasy and crystal meth stronger than they would be normally. If you are going to use, talk to your doctor or a healthcare professional first about their interactions; taking smaller amounts first to gauge the severity is advisable.
If you’re partying for long periods at a time, it can make sticking to treatment more complicated, running the risk of missing your treatment doses. Plan ahead so that you continue to take your HIV treatment, even if you’re having a longer session.
HIV Treatment is Free and Better Accessible
The good news for people living with HIV in NSW is that changes made in October 2015, meant that patients of NSW public hospitals or authorised community prescribers in NSW were no longer required to pay the patient co-payments for Section 100 (s100) Highly Specialised Drugs. This essentially made access to HIV treatment free.
The changes applied regardless of whether prescriptions are filled through NSW public hospitals, NSW community pharmacies or pharmacies used by NSW public hospital oncology services.
You can also get your meds in more ways than ever. Treatment can be dispensed from public hospitals, GPs, hospital-attached and community-based pharmacies, and local chemists – some of which providing home delivery services. Learn more here.
Commit to your Health
Many people with HIV report being surprised at how easy today’s treatments are to take. Maximising the effectiveness of your treatment comes down to what’s known as ‘adherence’ – taking your treatment strictly as prescribed.
You want to keep on top of it and not miss too many doses as HIV can become resistant to treatment. In that case, your viral load can increase and you may need to change your treatment combination to more complicated ones to bring it back down again.
It’s all about getting into the swing of things, and before you know it, taking your treatment will become second nature and part of your routine – much like brushing your teeth.