I’m undetectable: can I take a treatment holiday?

If your viral load is undetectable, you could be wondering about the impact of a treatment holiday, sometimes referred to as a break or interruption. Treatment holidays are not recommended, as they can have a negative impact on your health.

Being undetectable means that you are unlikely to become unwell due to complications with HIV and that you will have a longer life expectancy than those who are not on treatment. However, HIV is still present in the body and continuing to adhere to your treatment is key to living well with HIV. By remaining undetectable, you will continue to be unable to transmit HIV. A treatment holiday would increase your viral load and so your risk of passing on HIV.

Many people find adherence difficult for a number of reasons.  If you are facing challenges with treatment and are thinking about a treatment holiday, this should be discussed with your healthcare provider. There are a number of reasons you do not want to continue taking treatment. Whatever the reason might be, they can help you access the help and support you might need. You can find tips on adherence here.

A treatment holiday means that you would be at risk of opportunistic infections and serious illnesses like heart, kidney or liver disease. This would be because of a rise in your viral load and a fall in your CD4 count. Your CD4 cell count might not be fully restored, and some people experience flu-like symptoms while their viral load rises. By continuing to take treatment, you are safeguarding your health from these risks.

One of the other impacts of a treatment holiday is that you may become resistant to your treatment. This means that you may be unable to continue your current treatment and need to change to another regimen. If this continues, your treatment options will become limited. In order to sustain being undetectable, it is recommended that you continue to take your treatment as advised.

Being undetectable is sustained by continuing to take your treatment. This ensures that you continue to live well with HIV.  

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