Look For A Treatment Plan That Supports You
Finding the right treatment plan with your healthcare provider is one of the most empowering steps you can take.
Taking your medication every day as prescribed helps control your HIV and may prevent the development of AIDS. Whether you were just diagnosed or youve been living with HIV, it takes support to start a treatment and stick with it.
Do I Still Need To Use Condoms If Im Undetectable
HIV medicines only prevents HIV transmissionthey dont prevent other sexually transmitted infections , either from you to others, or others to you. Condoms are still very useful, especially if youre having sex with multiple partners or in situations when you dont know if your partner could have a detectable HIV viral load or might have an STI. I do recommend that people strongly consider using condomsbut its often for the other STIs or due to an unknown HIV status of their partners.
How Should I Take My Antiretroviral Treatment
When and how you take your ART will vary depending on the specific antiretroviral drugs you take. Most antiretroviral drugs are taken once a day, with or without food. However, some drugs are taken twice a day. If this might be something you find difficult, talk to your doctor about your options.
Once you start ART its very important that you take it properly and dont miss or skip doses, as this can lead to something called HIV drug resistance, and may mean that your drugs dont work as well for you in the future. If youre finding it hard to take your treatment at the right times and in the right way, speak to your healthcare worker. They can offer you support and give you advice on how to make taking your treatment easier.
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How Does Being Durably Undetectable Affect My Risk Of Transmitting Hiv To A Sexual Partner
People living with HIV who take antiretroviral medications daily as prescribed and who achieve and then maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.
Three large multinational research studies involving couples in which one partner was living with HIV and the other was notHPTN 052, PARTNER and Opposites Attractobserved no HIV transmission to the HIV-negative partner while the partner with HIV had a durably undetectable viral load. These studies followed approximately 3,000 male-female and male-male couples over many years while they did not use condoms. Over the course of the PARTNER and Opposites Attract studies, couples reported engaging in more than 74,000 condomless episodes of vaginal or anal intercourse.
Learn more about HIV treatment as prevention.
What Happens If I Delay Starting Hiv Treatment
In the past people could delay treatment if they werent ready to start. However, this isnt recommended now. If you have HIV, the sooner you start treatment, the better it is for your health.
The START trial found that there was a 53% reduction in the risk of death or serious illness if treatment was started when the CD4 count was still above 500.
Its common for people to feel apprehensive about taking treatment but all you need to remember is that:
- It will enable you to live a normal lifespan.
- When you’re on effective treatment you won’t be able to pass on HIV.
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I Have Too Much Going On
Life doesn’t stop because you have been diagnosed with a disease — nor do your responsibilities. Whether it’s a chaotic work schedule, taking care of loved ones or juggling a job and school, the act of getting your medications refilled regularly and taking your meds consistently is difficult to maintain when so much is expected of you.
But balance is important, especially when it comes to your health. If you can’t take care of yourself first, how are you going to be able to take care of your other responsibilities if you get really sick?
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.
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Starting Antiretroviral Treatment For Hiv
- Antiretroviral treatment keeps HIV under control, protecting your immune system so that you can stay healthy and live a long life.
- People living with HIV are advised to start treatment straight away, but some people may need time to process their diagnosis before they feel ready.
- There are lots of different antiretroviral drug combinations. Your healthcare worker will help you find the right one for you.
Its normal to have lots of questions before starting HIV treatment. Your healthcare workers are there to talk to you about any concerns you have and answer your questions. The information on this page should help you to think through what you need to know and the questions youd like to ask.
Questions To Ask About Each Drug
One of the most important things you can do to make sure you take your medicine correctly is to talk with your medical provider about your lifestyle, such as your sleeping and eating schedule. If your provider prescribes a drug, be sure and ask the following questions :
- What dose of the drug should be taken? How many pills does this mean?
- How often should the drug be taken?
- Does it matter if it is taken with food, or on an empty stomach?
- Does the drug have to be kept in a refrigerator?
- What are the possible side effects of the drug?
- What should be done to deal with the side effects?
- How severe do side effects have to be before a provider is called?
During every medical visit you should talk about whether you are having trouble staying on your treatment plan. Studies show that people who take their medicine in the right way get the best results: their viral loads stay down, their CD4 counts stay up, and they feel healthier.
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Could My Treatment Stop Working
For many people, the treatment they start taking will continue to work for as long as they take it.
If your viral load is not being kept under control by the treatment you are taking, your healthcare professional will want to find out why. It may be that you are having problems taking the drugs correctly, that they do not interact well with other drugs that you are taking or that your virus has become resistant to them.
Your healthcare professional may be able to help you resolve the problem and stay on the same treatment. However, if your treatment has stopped working, perhaps because of drug resistance, then you will be advised to change treatment. There are a number of HIV drugs, so your healthcare provider should be able to find a combination of drugs that is effective for you.
Staying On Stopping And Restarting Prep
This post was co-written by The Projects Clinical Director, Becky Johnson, ARNP, and Prevention Specialist Noah Beacom. The following does not constitute medical advice. Contact your provider if you have questions.
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many people are considering or already have stopped their PrEP regimen because they have decided to stop having sex for the time being. Public health experts do recommend limiting your sexual partners while the risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19 is still high. The New York state health department, for example, has a list of recommendations for having sex or, as the case may be, not having sex right now.
If youre among the folks who have decided to not have sex for awhile, you might decide to stop taking PrEP, or might be curious about doing so. Weve developed a quick guide to stopping and restarting PrEP.
Is it okay to stop taking PrEP?
We recommend that, even if you are not having sex right now, you continuing taking PrEP. Why? Life happens and we might find ourselves having an unplanned sexy moment. Continuing to take PrEP gives us that reassurance that we are protected from HIV for those times where things get steamy.
There is some misinformation that if you start and stop PrEP, your body will build up resistance to the medication and thus decrease its effectiveness. This is not the case. PrEP can safely be stopped and restarted without any resistance building up to the medication.
Can I just take less PrEP?
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Starting Hiv Medication While Youre In Full
When starting HIV treatment, talk to your doctor and make sure you understand how and when you should be taking your medication, whether it should be taken with food and where to store it.
One important thing to consider is how youll deal with side effects like dizziness or feeling tired, especially if your medication kicks in while youre at work.
This can be especially dangerous if you drive for work, do shift work, take care of others or operate machinery. It can also put you in an uncomfortable position if your co-workers dont know about your HIV status.
Ask your doctor if the treatment prescribed to you is likely to cause side effects. Just to be safe, take a few days off work as you begin your treatment. If your employer knows about your HIV status, they will be obliged to help adjust your work to treatment.
Taking Antiretroviral Treatment With Other Medicines
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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What Are The Other Possible Side Effects Of Biktarvy
Serious side effects of BIKTARVY may also include:
- Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections that may have been hidden in your body. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new symptoms after you start taking BIKTARVY.
- Kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood and urine tests to check your kidneys. If you develop new or worse kidney problems, they may tell you to stop taking BIKTARVY.
- Too much lactic acid in your blood , which is a serious but rare medical emergency that can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: weakness or being more tired than usual, unusual muscle pain, being short of breath or fast breathing, stomach pain with nausea and vomiting, cold or blue hands and feet, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or a fast or abnormal heartbeat.
- Severe liver problems, which in rare cases can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow, dark tea-colored urine, light-colored stools, loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, or stomach-area pain.
The most common side effects of BIKTARVY in clinical studies were diarrhea , nausea , and headache . Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effects that bother you or dont go away.
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.
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What Happens If You Stop Taking Truvada
Is it safe to stop using Truvada? Does this entail an increased risk of HIV infection? Will the efficacy of repeat PrEP treatment decrease after withdrawing Truvada? The answers to these and other questions are presented in the article.
Truvada is an effective drug often used to prevent HIV infection of people who are in contact with or belong to a risk group. It is also used in the complex treatment of HIV in order to prevent its transition to AIDS. Truvada and similar medications affect the immune system, so you need to take them for a long time and constantly, and stop of medication can cause serious deterioration of health condition . Still, there may be cases when the withdrawal is necessary, what to do in such situations? What happens if you stop taking Truvada? Lets find out about this in detail.
How Do You Know If The Drugs Are Working
After you’ve started taking drugs for HIV, your provider will look at how much HIV virus is in your bloodstream to see how well the drug therapy is working. If the drugs are working, your viral load goes down. You will have less of the virus in your bloodstream. A very important goal of treatment is to reduce the viral load to below the level that can be counted by laboratory tests, and to keep it there. This sometimes is called an “undetectable” level of HIV.
Other ways you and your provider can see if the drugs are working are:
- Your CD4 count. This number should stay the same or go up if your drugs are working.
- Your health checkups. Your treatment should help keep you healthy and help you fight off infections and diseases.
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Registering With An Hiv Specialist
There are increasing numbers of options available to you for treating HIV. Registering with an HIV specialist is essential in order to find out what options are best for you. This is free through public hospitals and Sexual Health Services. In the meantime, our counsellors are available for guidance and support.
You can access a number of services and specially trained health professionals for People Living with HIV from organisations throughout Aotearoa.
If Im Undetectable Is There A Chance My Viral Load Will Become Detectable Again
Being undetectable does not mean that you are cured of HIV. There are three instances when your HIV viral load might come back and be detectable again.
The most common instances are so-called viral blips. Blips are when your HIV levels become slightly detectable, but at a very low level, and then goes back to being undetectable again. People may experience viral blips when they take their HIV medications every day. Viral blips are usually due to issues in the lab, such as some slight error in the test or in the test conditions in the lab. Occasionally they are due to a slight but true increase in the viral load due to a stress such as an illness or a vaccine. Viral blips, in which the viral load goes right back down to undetectable soon, are considered harmless. There is no appreciable chance that a person with a viral blip will transmit HIV to another person.
People also become detectable when they stop taking their HIV medications or take them only partially. It may take between a week to several weeks after stopping HIV treatment for HIV to become detectable again, but people will see the levels of virus in their body go up to detectable levels.
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Why Not To Take A Treatment Break: The Smart Study
The SMART study recruited people taking HIV treatment with a CD4 cell count above 350. Participants were divided into two groups: the first group continued to take HIV treatment as normal, the other group stopped treatment, restarting when their CD4 cell count fell to around 250 , and then stopping again when their CD4 cell count once again reached 350. Among other things, the researchers wanted to see if people taking treatment breaks remained well, and how many avoided the side-effects of anti-HIV drugs.
However, in January 2006 the study was stopped early because 4% of people who interrupted their HIV treatment became ill compared to only 2% of people who took their HIV drugs all the time. The researchers found that people taking treatment breaks were more than twice as likely to become ill or die than people taking continuous HIV treatment.
As well as an increased risk of HIV disease progression, people taking treatment breaks also had an increased risk of other illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, and kidney or liver disease. This was a surprise, as these conditions can be side-effects of HIV treatment and the studys researchers had expected to see more of these illnesses in people taking HIV treatment all the time.
The researchers also found that people who took treatment breaks had a lower quality of life.