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Monitoring and switching antiretroviral treatment for HIV

Monitoring and switching treatment
FAST FACTS

• Antiretroviral treatment (ART) protects the immune system, but only if it is taken consistently as prescribed – this usually means every day at roughly the same time.

• Some people experience side effects initially, but these usually go away. If they remain you may be able to switch ARV treatment (to a different combination of drugs).

• Regular blood tests, which measure the levels of virus in your body (viral load) or the strength of your immune system (CD4 count), will show if your treatment is working.

• If your treatment stops working, your healthcare professional will advise you on changing to different drugs. 

Once you start taking HIV treatment, it’s important that you take it every day. Your healthcare professional will explain how many pills to take, how often to take them, and whether you should take them with food.

HIV treatment can only work if you always take it properly. If you have problems taking it, if you have questions or concerns about your treatment or health, of if you're thinking of stopping ARV treatment, it’s really important to tell your healthcare professional.

How can I tell if my treatment is working?

Having regular blood tests will show how well your treatment is working. If you were ill because of HIV, treatment should also mean you start to feel better.

The CD4 count is a blood test which shows the strength of your immune system. When you start taking treatment your CD4 count will go up.

The other test used to monitor HIV is called the viral load. This is also a blood test, and it gives an indication of the level of HIV in your body. The aim of HIV treatment is to lower your viral load and then to keep it as low as possible.


 

Last full review: 
17 April 2018
Next full review: 
16 April 2021

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Last updated:
17 April 2018
Last full review:
17 April 2018
Next full review:
16 April 2021