• 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.
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- 2. Lima, V., et al (2008) ‘Differential impact of adherence on long-term treatment response among naive HIV-infected individuals’, AIDS Journal, 22: 2371-2380
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- 4. AIDSMAP (2016) Travelling with HIV medications – time zone changes
- 5. Genberg, BL., et al (2012) ‘Patterns of antiretroviral therapy adherence and impact on HIV RNA among patients in North America’, AIDS Journal, 26(11): 1415–1423
- 6. Scherzer, R., et al, (2012) ‘Association of tenofovir exposure with kidney disease risk in HIV infection’, AIDS Journal, 26(7):867-75
- 7. Boyle, A., et al, (2012) ‘An investigation into the frequency and reasons why patients switch antiretroviral therapy and which antiretrovirals are commonly implicated in toxicity’, 18th Annual Conference of the British HIV Association, Birmingham, abstract O28
- 8. Bonner, K., et al (2013) ‘Viral load monitoring as a tool to reinforce adherence: a systematic review’, Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 1;64(1):74-8