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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, but keeps it under control, allowing the immune system to stay strong.

Health and quality of life for people diagnosed with HIV improved 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 the advent of antiretroviral therapy. Research has shown that HIV treatment can mean someone with HIV can expect to live just as long as someone who does not have HIV. To put it very simply – HIV treatment works!

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 to three pills once a day. 

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. BHIVA’s guidelines on HIV treatment currently recommend that most adults start treatment as soon as possible. Starting treatment has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV-related illness and of other serious illnesses, such as heart, kidney and liver disease. It will also reduce the risk of passing on HIV infection, once you have an undetectable viral load.

Although starting treatment immediately is recommended, it is important that you feel ready to start. Your doctor will understand that starting HIV treatment can feel like a big change and will be able to answer any questions you have.

Once you’ve started treatment, it is important to take all the doses of your anti-HIV drugs correctly. You can find out more about how HIV treatment works and about taking it in NAM’s booklet Taking your HIV treatment.

Like any 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 reactions.

It’s important to stress that the benefits of HIV treatment by far outweigh the risk of side-effects.

The 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.

This 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 side-effect.

Side-effects

Published October 2017

Last reviewed October 2017

Next review October 2020

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.
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
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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.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.