My HIV is undetectable, can I stop my medication?

Congratulations on reaching an undetectable viral load, this is an important first step to care for your health. A common question that people have is whether an undetectable viral load test means that HIV is no longer in the body and that their HIV is cured.

An undetectable viral load does not mean that HIV is cured. HIV treatment stops HIV from making more copies of itself, but it does not eliminate the HIV completely. Even when you are undetectable, there is still HIV inside your body.

This is because you have some cells in your body with HIV inside of them. They are dormant (sleeping) cells and can be found in the lymph nodes, gut, spleen, and other parts of the body. This is called an HIV reservoir.

If you stop taking your HIV treatment, when these dormant cells wake up, HIV will start to make copies of itself again because there are no longer medications in your body to stop it. To prevent this and stay undetectable, you must continue to take your HIV treatments daily as prescribed by your health care provider.

If you do not take your HIV treatments as prescribed, you could be at risk for a weakened immune system or opportunistic infections. See why taking your HIV treatment properly is important for more information.

There are other benefits to being undetectable besides your own health. Once your viral load has been undetectable for six months you are unable to pass HIV along through sex, as long as you continue to take your HIV treatments and remain undetectable. Learn more here: undetectable viral load and transmission – information for people with HIV.

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