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 have
any side-effects at all.
and severity of side-effects can also vary between people.
find that, although they have side-effects, these are mild and they can live
with them without distress or inconvenience.
find that they initially experience side-effects that then become less severe
or go away completely.
small number of people find that side-effects are a permanent feature of a
particular HIV drug and affect their quality of life, even going so far as
causing physical or mental illness.
of developing some side-effects can be affected by a number of factors related
to who you are.
example, some people have a particular gene (HLA-B*5701) which puts them at
risk of a severe allergic (hypersensitivity) reaction to the anti-HIV drug
abacavir. There is a test to find out if you have that gene, which your doctor
will arrange if you are considering treatment with abacavir. If you do have the
gene, you must not take abacavir – see
Hypersensitivity (allergic) reactions
for more information.
factor is race. For example, some people process efavirenz more slowly than
others. This is thought to be linked to a genetic variation which is common in
black African people. It can increase the risk of side-effects.
taking other medications or drugs, including over-the-counter, herbal or
recreational drugs, at the same time as anti-HIV drugs can increase the chances
of having side-effects.
And how you
live your life might also affect your risk of some other side-effects. Some
anti-HIV drugs, for example, can cause increases in blood fats, and this could
be made worse if you eat lots of high-fat foods. There is some concern that
treatment with some anti-HIV drugs might increase the risk of cardiovascular
disease, and this can be a real concern for people with other risk factors for
heart disease such as smoking or a family history of heart disease.
drugs have been linked with liver problems, and these can also be caused by
drinking too much alcohol or using recreational drugs. Being infected with
hepatitis B or hepatitis C can also mean that you have an increased risk of
developing liver problems if you are taking certain anti-HIV drugs.
actions, many of which have other health benefits as well, that you can take to
reduce the risk of developing certain side-effects. These include eating a
balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and not too much fat,
taking exercise, not smoking, and not drinking too much alcohol.
If you have
risk factors for side-effects (for example, a family history of heart disease
or infection with hepatitis B or C), it is important that your doctor knows
about them. This will enable you and your doctor to find the most suitable
anti-HIV drugs for you. NAM’s
online tool, Talking points (www.aidsmap.com/talking-points),
can help you prepare for this discussion with your doctor by taking you through
the health and lifestyle factors that might affect your choice of anti-HIV