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Summary

  • HIV treatment is very effective and can mean a long and healthy life.
  • However, anti-HIV drugs – like all medications – can cause unwanted side-effects.
  • HIV treatment is meant to keep you well. You don’t have to put up with side-effects.
  • It’s not inevitable that you will experience side-effects. If side-effects do develop, they will often go away. Otherwise, it’s usually possible to do something about them.
  • Some anti-HIV drugs can cause a serious hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction. You will be told about the symptoms to look out for and what to do if you experience them. It’s important you take action quickly, and that you don’t take the drug that caused that reaction again in the future.
  • It always makes good sense to tell your doctor about any side-effects or symptoms you are experiencing.
  • The side-effects caused by the most commonly used HIV drugs nowadays tend to be mild. You’re most likely to notice side-effects soon after you start taking a new drug and these usually lessen or go away with time.
  • Common side-effects are diarrhoea, feeling or being sick, headache, rash and tiredness. It’s usually possible to take medicines to control these.
  • Some side-effects develop after you’ve been taking a medicine for a period of months or even years. You’ll have tests to check for these and it makes good sense to tell your doctor about any unusual symptoms.
  • Some of the long-term side-effects that people are most anxious about, such as fat loss and fat gain (lipodystrophy), are mostly linked to drugs no longer used routinely in the UK.

Side-effects

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.

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 It may have been superseded by more recent developments.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.