Back to contents


Selina Corkery, Greta Hughson

This booklet provides information about the possible side-effects of HIV treatment. All drugs, including those used to treat HIV, can cause unwanted side-effects. You may be reading this because you are worried about such side-effects or because you have already experienced them. The information here aims to help you understand, avoid and deal with side-effects.

Not everyone experiences side-effects, and just because a drug’s side-effect is discussed in this booklet does not mean that you will develop it if you take that drug. Even if side-effects develop, they are usually mild, temporary or treatable.

It is important to talk to your HIV doctor or another member of your healthcare team about any concerns you have about side-effects, or any symptoms you are experiencing. This booklet aims to help inform that discussion.

The previous edition of Side-effects is also available online in Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

  • HIV treatment – a longer and healthier life

    Good medical 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,...

  • Safeguards against side-effects

    HIV mainly infects cells in the immune system called CD4 cells. When someone has HIV, the number of CD4 cells drops gradually but continually and the immune...

  • Timing of side-effects

    Some side-effects appear soon after treatment with a drug is started as the body adjusts to treatment with the new drug. Such side-effects often lessen, become manageable or...

  • Who gets side-effects?

    Anti-HIV drugs can cause side-effects in anyone. But that doesn’t mean that you will definitely experience side-effects – in fact many people who take HIV treatment don’t...

  • Taking control of side-effects

    Side-effects can be annoying, inconvenient, distressing and sometimes even frightening. But it can be helpful to know that it is not inevitable that you will experience them. You...

  • HIV treatment combinations and their side-effects

    Side-effects are often described in the following categories: very common. This means that more than one in ten people taking the medicine are likely to have the side-effect. common....

  • Hypersensitivity (allergic) reactions

    The anti-HIV drugs with the greatest risk of hypersensitivity, or allergy, are abacavir (Ziagen, also in the combination pills Kivexa and Trizivir) and nevirapine (Viramune).Atazanavir (Reyataz), etravirine (Intelence),...

  • Common side-effects

    This section of the booklet provides some more information on the commonest side-effects that the anti-HIV drugs currently in use can cause. It is intended to provide you...

  • Longer-term side-effects

    Effective HIV treatment has significantly reduced the risk of serious kidney disease in people with HIV. However, most anti-HIV drugs can cause some damage to the kidneys, so...

  • Summary

    HIV treatment is very effective and can mean a long and healthy life. However, anti-HIV drugs –...


Published July 2013

Last reviewed July 2013

Next review July 2016

Contact NAM to find out more about the scientific research and information used to produce this booklet.

Talking points

Talking points is designed to help you talk to your doctor about HIV treatment.

Go to Talking points >
This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap