any drugs, HIV treatment can cause side-effects. It is important to always talk
to your doctor or nurse and let them know whenever you experience any new
symptoms that may be due to side-effects, as they may be able to help you deal
with them. It is worth remembering that many women have few, if any, side-effects,
especially after the first few days of a new drug when your body has had a
chance to adjust to it. Newer anti-HIV drugs tend to have fewer side-effects
than the older ones.
everyone will experience side-effects. If they do, most often, side-effects
occur soon after a drug is started and lessen over time. Common side-effects
include nausea, diarrhoea, headaches, rash and feeling tired. Your healthcare
team should talk to you about what side-effects you might expect and how to
minimise their impact.
side-effects are not serious. However, certain anti-HIV drugs can cause serious
hypersensitivity (allergic) reactions in some people, usually soon after you
start on a new drug. It’s very important you seek medical advice quickly in
this situation. You can find out more about the drugs most likely to cause this
reaction, and the symptoms to look out for, in the Anti-HIV drugs and Side-effects
booklets in NAM’s
tend to get higher levels of some anti-HIV drugs in their blood than men. This
is probably because men tend to weigh more. Having higher levels of a drug in
your blood can mean that there's more of it available to fight HIV but, on the
downside, it could mean that you might be more likely to experience
of possible side-effects, women prescribed certain drugs may need closer
clinical and laboratory monitoring in order to avoid potential problems. If you
are concerned about any aspect of your treatment, always talk to your doctor,
pharmacist, support worker or treatment advocate about this and they will help
you to make the treatment choices that suit you best. The side-effects listed
below, while not common, are thought to affect women more often than men.
Rash and liver
toxicity related to nevirapine: Women appear to be at greater risk than men
of developing these side-effectslinked
to the anti-HIV drug nevirapine (Viramune).
These are most likely to occur in the first three months of treatment and you
will be closely monitored during this time. It is especially important that you
keep regular appointments at your clinic for liver function and other tests
during this time.
Metabolic changes: These include changes
in the levels of fat and sugars in the blood, which can result in high blood
glucose, high blood pressure and increased cholesterol and triglycerides.
Regular monitoring of these is important as high levels are often associated
with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
you are taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy, for women going through the
menopause) as well as HIV treatment, ensure that you discuss the risk factors
with your doctor, as HRT can also increase the risk of stroke. There is also a
possible risk of interactions between HRT and some anti-HIV drugs.
where fat accumulates in certain parts of the body, resulting in visible body
shape changes, can be a side-effect of HIV treatment. There may also be a
reduction in fat in other areas of the body, known as lipoatrophy. Some studies
suggest that lipodystrophy may affect women more than men, and that women are
more likely to experience unusual fat accumulation in certain parts of the body
such as the breasts without the fat loss that more often occurs in men.
changes can be distressing. If this happens, discuss it with your doctor and
talk to other women who have had, and dealt with, similar experiences.
Menstrual changes: Menstrual changes,
including irregular, heavy and painful periods, are associated with some anti-HIV
drugs in a group called protease inhibitors, especially Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir). Talk to your doctor if you have