How can HIV be treated?

There is currently no cure for HIV. However, there are treatment options available that are very effective if taken correctly and every day.

ARVs – antiretrovirals
The medicine used to treat HIV is called ARVs (antiretrovirals) or ART (antiretroviral treatment). ARVs can prolong the lives of people with HIV. It keeps them healthy so that they can have the same life expectancy as someone who is HIV-negative. Taking ARVs as prescribed will also lower the chances of infecting others.

When should I start treatment if I am positive?
It is recommended that people with HIV start ARVs as soon as possible. In people with HIV who have certain conditions, it’s especially important to start ART right away. These include those with:

  • a low CD4 count
  • certain HIV-related illnesses and co-infections
  • early HIV infection

Adherence
For ARVs to work correctly, they must be taken every day and exactly as prescribed. This is called adherence. For people with HIV, treatment adherence is key to staying healthy.  Skipping HIV medicines allows HIV to multiply, which increases the risk of drug resistance and HIV treatment failure. Poor adherence to an HIV regimen also allows HIV to destroy the immune system. A damaged immune system makes it harder for the body to fight off infections and certain cancers.

Managing HIV
Because HIV requires lifelong treatment, it’s essential for people with HIV to visit their health care provider regularly. Ongoing medical care includes monitoring to make sure a person’s HIV treatment is keeping the virus under control. An HIV-positive person needs to have their blood tested every six months to see if the medication is working as it should.