care, including access to anti-HIV drugs, can mean a long and healthy life for
people living with HIV. Current HIV treatment does not cure HIV, but keeps it
under control allowing the immune system to stay strong.
of illness and death in people with HIV fell dramatically after combinations of
three anti-HIV drugs started to be used in the mid-1990s. There have been
further improvements in HIV treatment and care since then. Research has shown
that HIV treatment means someone with HIV has a more-or-less normal life
expectancy. To put it very simply – HIV
To get the
maximum benefit from HIV treatment you need to take your treatment in the way
your doctor or pharmacist has advised every day. For most people starting HIV
treatment, this means taking one or two pills once a day. Many people will
forget a dose at some point, but most anti-HIV drugs will still work if you
miss an occasional dose and take it a few hours later.
likely to get the greatest benefit from your HIV treatment if you start taking
treatment before HIV has done too much damage to your immune system. In the UK, standards for HIV treatment and
care are set and monitored by the British HIV Association (BHIVA), the
professional association for HIV doctors and other healthcare professionals.
guidelines on HIV treatment currently recommend that adults start treatment
when their CD4 cell count is around 350. Starting treatment at this time has
been shown to reduce the risk of HIV-related illness and of some other serious
illnesses, such as heart, kidney and liver disease as well.
situations, it may be recommended that someone starts treatment sooner, while
their CD4 cell count is still above 350. These include:
- if you have an HIV-related illness
- if you have hepatitis
- if you need treatment for cancer
- if you are over 50, or
- to reduce the risk of passing HIV
However a major trial announced its results in May 2015 and this is likely to result in BHIVA's guidelines changing. This study proved that there are advantages to starting treatment at high CD4 cell counts. We now know that starting HIV treatment earlier reduces the risk of serious illnesses, AIDS, death and HIV transmission. It’s important to feel ready for the commitment of taking HIV treatment, but when you do feel ready, there’s no reason to delay.
started treatment, it is important to take all the doses of your anti-HIV drugs
correctly. This will mean that there is very little chance that your drugs will
stop working because your HIV has become resistant to them. You can find out
more about taking HIV treatment in the booklet in this series, Adherence & resistance.
other medicines, the drugs used to treat HIV can have unwanted effects that are
sometimes unpleasant or can even make you unwell. These are called side-effects.
Sometimes they are also called secondary effects, adverse events or adverse
to stress that the benefits of HIV treatment by far outweigh the risk of
anti-HIV drugs used today cause far fewer side-effects than those that were
commonly used in the past. The choice of drugs is much greater now and
something can usually be done if your anti-HIV drugs do cause side-effects. You
don’t have to ‘grin and bear’ side-effects.
booklet provides you with information about HIV treatment side-effects, the
likelihood they will happen, how to minimise the risk of them developing, how
to manage them if they do occur and what to do if you develop a serious