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Should You Ever Switch The Drugs You’re Taking

You should never change the drug plan you’re on without talking with your provider. This is a very important decision and one that must be made with your provider.

There are a few reasons that your provider may suggest you change your medicines. There may be a fixed-dose combination pill that could simplify your therapy. Or your treatment may not be working well enough and you may need different medicines. Or you may have side effects that are bothering you, or lab tests that show signs of ill effects from the HIV drugs .

Before changing medicines, you and your provider should talk about:

  • All the HIV drugs you have taken before and the ones you haven’t taken
  • Any drug resistance your HIV virus may have
  • Possible side effects of the new medicines
  • How well you will be able to follow the new drug treatment plan

Always be sure to talk with your provider about any changes in your drug treatment.

Truvada Is Not A Condom Replacement

This pill does not spell the end of condoms. Public-health officials are being very careful to avoid suggesting Truvada is an alternative to other forms of protection especially because it doesn’t protect against the full range of sexually transmitted infections people are exposed to during intercourse. “We are suggesting that for people who are already not using condoms, we have another option to help protect them from HIV infection,” says the CDC’s Dawn Smith, biomedical interventions implementation officer. “It’s part of being practical and realistic.” The hope is that those who get prescriptions are folks who just aren’t using anything to protect themselves at the moment. “We know from our surveillance systems that condom use is not as high as is necessary to control the epidemic,” Smith added.

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What Else Do I Need To Know About Taking Hiv/aids Medicines

It’s important to take your medicines every day, according to the instructions from your health care provider. If you miss doses or don’t follow a regular schedule, your treatment may not work, and the HIV virus may become resistant to the medicines.

HIV medicines can cause side effects. Most of these side effects are manageable, but a few can be serious. Tell your health care provider about any side effects that you are having. Don’t stop taking your medicine without first talking to your provider. He or she may give you tips on how to deal with the side effects. In some cases, your provider may decide to change your medicines.

Important Questions To Ask Your Doctor

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Ask your doctor to tell you what you should know about your HIV medicines.

  • What medicines am I taking to treat HIV?
  • When should I take each medicine?
  • Should I take my medicines with food?
  • Which prescription medicines, herbs , over-the-counter medicines , or vitamins can affect my HIV medicines? Can my HIV medicines affect any of the other medicines I take?
  • How should I store my HIV medicines? What about when I am away from home or go out of town?
  • What are the side effects of the medicines I am taking?
  • What should I do if I start having bad side effects?

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How Do You Deal With Side Effects

Some side effects can be hard to deal with. One way to cope with them is to know what to watch out for and have a plan to deal with problems that come up.

That’s why you need to talk to your provider about the risk of side effects from different drugs, before you start therapy.

At the beginning of any treatment, you go through a period of adjustment–a time when your body has to get used to the new drugs you’re taking. Sometimes you’ll have headaches, an upset stomach, fatigue, or aches and pains. These side effects may go away after a few days or a few weeks.

If you notice any unusual or severe reactions after starting or changing a drug, report the side effects to your provider immediately.

More information is available in the Side Effects Guide.

Antiretroviral Treatment And The Hiv Lifecycle

Antiretroviral treatment for HIV combines several different types of drugs, each of which targets a different stage in the HIV lifecycle. This means that the replication of HIV is stopped on multiple fronts, making it very effective.

If taken correctly, it keeps the immune system healthy, prevents the symptoms and illnesses associated with AIDS from developing, and means that people can enjoy long and healthy lives.

If someone doesnt take their treatment correctly or consistently , the level of HIV in their blood may increase and the drugs may no longer work. This is known as developing drug resistance.

Also Check: When Does Hiv Start Affecting You

What Is Important For This Approach To Work

For HIV treatment to provide protection against HIV transmission, a persons viral load needs to become and remain undetectable after they start treatment.

When a person begins treatment, it usually takes three to six months for their viral load to become undetectable. Most people will eventually have an undetectable viral load if they are using HIV treatment that is effective against their strain of HIV and take it as prescribed by their doctor.

A persons viral load needs to remain undetectable for at least six months before they can use this approach as an effective HIV prevention strategy. They must continue to have high adherence to treatment to maintain an undetectable viral load over time. The only way for them to know if their viral load remains undetectable over the long term is to have regular viral load tests.

However, not everyones viral load becomes and remains undetectable on treatment. The most common reason why a persons viral load remains detectable is low adherence to their medications, but drug resistance can also occur. When treatment fails, a person wont know that their viral load is detectable until they get another viral load test. Depending on the reason the treatment failed, a person may require a change in treatment, or they may benefit from adherence counselling, to bring their viral load back down to undetectable levels. The best options for moving forward should be discussed with a doctor.

Taking Antiretroviral Treatment With Other Medicines

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If you are taking other medications or drugs including: treatments for other health conditions contraception hormonal therapies or use psychoactive drugs, its important that your doctor knows about this. Different drugs can interact, changing the way that they work. This may mean that a drug becomes too strong or that a drug becomes too weak, so that it can no longer control your HIV, prevent pregnancy or treat another health condition. Discuss the medication you take with your healthcare workers so they make sure that the combination is safe and will work well for you.

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Getting Support With Starting Treatment

Its important that you feel ready to start ART and understand how to take it properly. Current HIV treatment has to be taken every day for the rest of your life. You might feel good about starting HIV treatment, because it is something you can do to stay healthy and strong. But it is also normal to feel worried about it, or to have questions.

In addition to talking to your doctor, you may find it helpful to talk to someone who has experience of taking HIV treatment. Many clinics have peer mentors, who can offer support and information, or can put you in touch with community organisations and peer support groups.

Treatment Reduces The Amount Of Hiv In The Blood

  • The amount of HIV in the blood is called viral load.
  • Taking your HIV medicine as prescribed will help keep your viral load low and your CD4 cell count high.
  • HIV medicine can make the viral load very low . Viral suppression is defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood.
  • HIV medicine can make the viral load so low that a test cant detect it .
  • If your viral load goes down after starting HIV treatment, that means treatment is working. Continue to take your medicine as prescribed.
  • If you skip your medications, even now and then, you are giving HIV the chance to multiply rapidly. This could weaken your immune system, and you could become sick.
  • Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load is the best way to stay healthy and protect others.

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If The Viral Load Is Undetectable Can You Stop Treatment

No! Having a viral load below levels that laboratory tests can measure tells us that the HIV drugs are working. An undetectable viral load doesn’t mean the HIV virus is gone from your body, though. Even though the virus is not detected in the blood, it is still present in other parts of your body, such as the lymph nodes, brain, and reproductive organs. If you stop treatment, the virus will start reproducing again and your viral load will increase, putting your health at risk.

Types Of Antiretroviral Medications

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  • There are more than 30 antiretroviral medications in six drug classes these are listed below.
  • Each class of drug attacks HIV in a different way.

There are six main types of antiretroviral drugs.

Each class of drug attacks HIV in a different way. Generally, drugs from two classes are combined to ensure a powerful attack on HIV.

Most people start HIV treatment on two drugs from the nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors class combined with either one integrase inhibitor, one non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, or one protease inhibitor hence, triple therapy.

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The Effects Of Hiv On The Body

Most people are likely familiar with HIV, but they may not know how it can affect the body.

HIV destroys CD4 cells , which are critical to the immune system. CD4 cells are responsible for keeping people healthy and protecting them from common diseases and infections.

As HIV gradually weakens the bodys natural defenses, signs and symptoms will occur.

Find out what happens when the virus enters the body and interrupts its systems.

Once HIV enters the body, it launches a direct attack on the immune system.

How quickly the virus progresses will vary by:

  • a persons age
  • how quickly theyre diagnosed

The timing of their treatment can make a huge difference as well.

HIV targets the types of cells that would normally fight off an invader such as HIV. As the virus replicates, it damages or destroys the infected CD4 cell and produces more virus to infect more CD4 cells.

Without treatment, this cycle can continue until the immune system is badly compromised, leaving a person at risk for serious illnesses and infections.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the final stage of HIV. At this stage, the immune system is severely weakened, and the risk of contracting opportunistic infections is much greater.

However, not everyone with HIV will go on to develop AIDS. The earlier a person receives treatment, the better their outcome will be.

Early on, HIV symptoms may be mild enough to be dismissed.

When To Start Hiv Treatment

Its now recommended that everyone diagnosed with HIV starts treatment straight away after being diagnosed.

In the UK, national guidelines set out standards for HIV treatment. They currently recommend that anyone with HIV who is ready to commit to treatment should start it regardless of their CD4 count .

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What Are Drug Interactions

Your HIV medications can be affected by other medicines, including other prescription drugs you are taking and drugs you buy over the counter at a pharmacy. Even herbal therapies, nutritional supplements, and some things found in common foods can affect your HIV medicines.

When one drug affects how another drug behaves, this is called a drug-drug interaction. For example, some drugs become less effective or cause side effects when they are taken with certain other drugs.

When something in food affects how a drug behaves, it is called a drug-food interaction. For example, grapefruit juice, taken at the same time as certain drugs, can boost the amount of these drugs in your bloodstream to an undesirable level. Everyone taking HIV drugs needs to be very careful about these interactions. Luckily, many of these interactions are well known to your provider and can be managed.

Your provider can give you a list of drugs and foods to avoid, depending on what treatment you are taking. Ask for this information for each drug that you are taking.

Also, be sure that you tell your provider about every single medication, drug, supplement, and herb you are taking–whether you got them by prescription or not.

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What If Your Treatment Isn’t Working

Sometimes the HIV medications don’t work. This may occur because the drugs don’t completely stop the virus from reproducing. As the virus makes copies of itself, changes sometimes occur. These changes may result in a new strain of the virus that is resistant to the action of the drugs. If your providers think this has happened, they will do a blood test that can help show which drugs the virus has become resistant to. This can help identify other drugs that might still work against your virus.

If a person has a strain of HIV that is resistant to most or all available drugs, that person may want to consider joining a clinical trial that is testing new drugs that have not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration . See Clinical Trials.

How Does Hiv Spread

To get tainted with HIV, contaminated blood, semen, or vaginal emissions must enter your body. It can occur in a few different ways:

  • You may get tainted if you have vaginal, butt-centric, or oral sex with a contaminated accomplice whose blood, semen, or vaginal discharges enter your body. The infection can enter your body through mouth bruises or little tears that occasionally create in the rectum or vagina during sexual movement.
  • Sharing polluted IV sedate stuff puts you at great danger of HIV and different irresistible sicknesses, for example, hepatitis.
  • From Blood Transfusions Now and again, the infection might be transmitted through blood transfusions. American medical clinics and blood donation centers currently screen the blood flexibly for HIV antibodies, so this hazard is minimal.
  • During Pregnancy Or Delivery Or Through Breast Feeding Infected moms can give the infection to their infants. Moms who are HIV-positive and get treatment for the disease during pregnancy can altogether bring down the hazard to their infants.

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How Your Treatment Works

Itâs called antiretroviral therapy . The drugs help keep your bodyâs virus count, called an HIV âviral load,â low or âundetectable.â That in turn lets your immune system heal itself and stay strong. It also lowers the odds that you might spread HIV to other people.

ART starts to work quickly, within hours and days. But you need to take your medicine every day as directed. If you stop, the virus will multiply and make you sick. Youâre also more likely to infect others. Skipping your meds also may lead to drug resistance, which will make the medication work less and less well when you go back on it.

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