If you have tested positive for HIV, you will be advised to undergo HIV/AIDS treatment immediately. There is currently no cure for HIV, so the treatment works to manage the virus.
The purpose of HIV treatment is to create an undetectable viral load. This means that the level of HIV in your blood is so low, it will be undetectable when tests are carried out. This generally runs at below 20 copies/ml, although this can vary by clinic.
Even though you would still have HIV, when you have an undetectable viral load and remain on effective treatment, it would not be possible to pass the virus on or for HIV to cause any damage to your immune system.
There will be several treatment options that your health care provider will look to explore. Finding the right drug combination can take some time, and you may have to switch treatments if the medications you are taking are not effective or have too many side effects.
Starting HIV treatment as soon as possible is important, and arrangements will be put in place as soon as you are diagnosed. Your doctor will refer you for treatment to a specialist team who will inform you of the next steps that will need to be taken.
Without taking HIV treatment, the virus will attack and weaken your immune system. By weakening your natural defence against infections, it makes you more susceptible to infections your body would usually be able to fight off.
Starting your treatment later puts you at far greater risk. Figures have shown that when your CD4 count (this measures your immune system strength) is above 500, you cut the risk of serious illness or death by over 50%.
The medicine used by doctors to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a treatment that suppresses a retrovirus such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that can cause AIDS if left untreated.
Regularly taking your anti-HIV drugs when scheduled is important in tackling resistance. If your strain develops resistance, it can impact similar drugs and mean you need to take a more complicated combination of drugs that may have side effects.
HIV medications are designed to control the growth of the virus, improve your immune system, slow or stop the symptoms and prevent the transmission of HIV to others. Some commonly used HIV medications include;
It is not guaranteed that you will suffer from side effects from your HIV treatment. Depending on the side effects that you suffer, one course of action could be to change treatments. Here are some of the side effects you could experience from HIV treatment;
While changing treatments is an option, it would not normally be necessary as side effects caused by anti-HIV drugs are usually mild and go away in time. You must inform your doctor if any side effects persist or cause you considerable discomfort.
When a pharmaceutical company develops a new drug, it will be under a patent that can last up to 20 years. Only this pharmaceutical company will be able to produce this drug during this time. At the end of that 20-year term, other drug companies can make their own versions of the medication.
As effective HIV treatments in the UK have been on the market for over 20 years, many of these drugs are coming off patent, meaning different versions are available. These are known as 'generic'.
Because of this, the NHS can purchase the same high-quality HIV drugs for a much lower price. This cost-cutting tactic frees up money for other treatments.
Though a generic drug may look slightly different in shape or colour, it will be the same drug. Much like paracetamol is available on the high street by different brands, generic HIV drugs work the same way.
Your health care provider will be able to explain any changes to generic HIV treatments fully. Small differences like the amount of medication you take can change, but this should not change how it works.
Resistance to your anti-HIV medication can happen. If it does, you may need to change treatments. Your health care provider will monitor the effectiveness of your medication and advise you of any changes that need to be made.
A change of medication may be necessary if;
HIV cells can mutate, normally these differences would not make a difference, but sometimes they can develop a resistance to the medication you are taking.
This can occur when you do not adhere to your HIV treatment timetable. This allows the virus to develop drug resistance and mutate. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors NNRTIs and nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors NRTIs are used to stop the virus from making copies of itself and replicating.
The strain you contracted may already have resistance against some anti-HIV drugs, so there may be a period of testing what works when you first start your treatment.
According to the BHIVA (British HIV Association), you should be tested for resistance when you are initially diagnosed, when you are ready to start your treatment, or if you are going to change treatment.
Developments on HIV treatments are regularly being made, and there are many anti-HIV drugs now on the market that can treat strains of the virus that are resistant to other drugs.
During clinical trials, new drugs or treatments are tested on patients and assessed. The aim is to discover whether a proposed treatment is;
Clinical trials can take place in many settings depending on who is developing the drug, including;
Trials need to be reviewed by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) and local ethics committees.
Some of the main reasons someone might want to take part in a clinical trial include;
There may be some reasons you shouldn't take part in a clinical trial, such as;
HIV is not curable, but the virus can be managed if caught in time. Ensuring you are tested if you recognise any of the symptoms and adhering to your treatment plan will mean you will have the best chance of avoiding complications such as HIV infection developing into AIDs.
You can either visit your doctor to get tested or perform an at-home test - the results will be available to you in minutes.
People living with HIV can now expect to live a long, healthy life by taking their HIV medicines.
Understanding the symptoms of HIV can help an early diagnosis. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) symptoms would come in three different stages.
Though this stage can be symptomless, HIV will still be present in your system. You will have to manage the virus with regular treatment, or it can develop to stage 3.
If HIV is not treated, you will eventually progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) when your bodies immune system has been sufficiently weakened. The symptoms of HIV AIDS include;
If you recognise any of the symptoms of HIV or have recently had unprotected sex, it is worth speaking to your health care provider for more information and to get tested for HIV or STIs.
If they believe you should be tested for HIV or other infections, they may be able to test you, or they can refer you to somewhere that can. HIV testing locations include;
Taking an HIV test will always be nerve-wracking and worrying for anyone, but you mustn't delay testing. HIV medications have a much better success rate when people start their treatment during the early stages of HIV.