Who Should Start Treatment with HIV Medicines?
Treatment with HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) Is recommended for everyone infected with HIV. ART helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and reduces the risk of HIV transmission. When to start ART, however, depends on a person’s unique needs and circumstances.
When to start ART depends on the following factors;
- A person’s CD4 count and other test results
- Whether the person has any other diseases or conditions, including pregnancy, an HIV-related illness, or AIDS (AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.)
- A person’s ability and willingness to commit to lifelong treatment with HIV medicines.
Once you do begin treatment, it’s important to continue regular visits with your healthcare provider—and to follow the directions for the medications you are taking very carefully. If you don’t take your HIV medications EXACTLY as directed, you could develop drug resistance, which could make your HIV meds stop working.
Preparing for Lifelong Treatment
ART is a lifelong treatment that can keep you healthy for many years and greatly reduce your chance to transmitting HIV to your partner(s) if taken consistently and correctly. Treatment is most likely to be successful when you know what to expect and are committed to following the plan that you and your healthcare provider work out together.
For many people, starting treatment for their HIV disease means they have to make significant changes in the way they live. It’s important for you to know what you’re getting into before you start.
Some of the life changes you will need to make are related to the way your HIV meds work. For instance, some medications may require you to eat at certain times of the day. Some HIV medications have to be taken more than once a day at specific times—and taking them with food may make them more or less effective.
If you have other health problems in addition to HIV, and you take drugs for those conditions, you may have to learn to take your medications at different times of the day or change them all together. That’s because some meds can change the way your body processes the other medications when you take them together. They can make some medications ineffective or increase the amount of medication in your body.
You should discuss all of these issues, and any concerns you have, with your healthcare provider BEFORE you begin treatment. Your provider will help you identify barriers to staying on your plan and ways to address those barriers. Understanding issues that can make staying on your treatment plan difficult will help you and your health care provider select the best treatment for you.
Related Topics on AIDS.gov
- AIDSinfo - Clinical Guidelines Portal
- AIDSInfo – HIV Treatment: The Basics
- AIDSInfo – What to Start: Selecting a First HIV Regimen
- AIDSInfo – FDA-Approved HIV Medicines
- CDC – Every Dose. Every Day. Medication Adherence Consumer Handouts
- CDC – HIV Treatment Works Campaign
- FDA – Antiviral Drugs Used in the Treatment of HIV Infection
- NIAID - Drugs That Fight HIV
- VA: Treatment Decisions
- VA: Questions to Ask Your Doctor About HIV Drugs
Last revised: 09/09/2015