What Are My Options To Get Treated For HIV?
The goal of HIV treatment is to impede the virus' progression in an infected person's body. The types of medications that are effective for this type of treatment are called antiretrovirals (ARV). In nearly every case, multiple ARVs are combined to provide adequate medical care. These combinations of ARVs are known by the term antiretroviral therapy (ART). Due to medical advances and an increasingly accurate understanding of how well ART medications work in conjunction with each other, deaths from AIDS have been falling since the mid-90s.
There is no cure for HIV. However, if properly medicated, ART medications allow people to live healthy lives for years. ART medications can also greatly reduce the risk of virus transmission. A patient's viral load (the amount of virus in an infected person's blood and bodily fluids) can typically be reduced with ART. The effectiveness of ART is so clear that it is recommended for anyone who is infected with the HIV virus, regardless of their current health status.
Why Does HIV Treatment Matter?
The importance of HIV treatment is difficult to overstate. HIV treatments help protect a patient's health and help fight HIV. Once a treatment plan is developed, it is important to stick to it. The majority of patients that do not receive HIV treatment will go on to develop AIDS.
Without treatment, HIV weakens a patient's immune system. This opens the door for multiple life-threatening illnesses and opportunistic infections to take hold. People with normal, robust immune systems do not typically fall prey to the types of infections and sicknesses that can turn out to be fatal for untreated HIV patients. Most doctors will prescribe medications to avoid and prevent different types of infections.
HIV treatment is most effective when dosages are followed consistently. Frank discussions about allergies and medical history are imperative, and can help doctors decide on the most effective course of medication. Taking the proper medications at the prescribed times can help people suffering from HIV lead healthier lives and reduce the risk of transmission.
When Should HIV Treatment Begin?
Ideally, HIV treatment should begin as quickly as possible after a patient is diagnosed with the virus. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests beginning antiretroviral therapy (ART) immediately, as ART impedes the progress that HIV can make and can keep a patient healthy for years. As such, it is important to get tested for HIV as early as possible if you think you may be at risk.
Delaying treatment allows the virus to attack the immune system and places the patient at a greater risk of coming down with illnesses that can prove fatal.
What Does Art Do?
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a term that simply means using drugs developed for HIV as treatment for an HIV infection. There are five classes of HIV medications, each with a specific purpose to attack the progression of HIV at different times in the virus' life cycle.
The different classes of HIV medicines all have specific roles. The first class of medications works to reduce the level of HIV in an infected person's body. The second class of medications tries to keep the immune system healthy by increasing an infected person's CD4 count (CD4 cells help stop infections from developing). The third class of medications work to stop infections and sicknesses. The fourth class of medications work to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to another person. Finally, the fifth class of medications help reduce the risk of a pregnant mother infecting her newborn baby during childbirth.
ART is typically a combination of three or more medications. A patient's specific health needs will come into play when a doctor decides upon a specific regimen of medicines. Once a treatment plan is developed, though, it is critical that it is followed as exactly as possible. Many medications need to be taken at a specific time of day. Sometimes these drugs need to be taken with food or water or both. Patients that have questions about how and when to take their medications should contact either their pharmacist or doctor.
Are There Any Side Effects Of ART?
Almost all medications have side effects and antiretroviral therapy (ART) is not an exception. The side effects are not universal and some patients do not experience them at all.
For the people that do experience side effects, the common ones include: fatigue, sleeplessness, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, headaches, rashes, and dizziness. Some of these side effects will be temporary and fade after a few days or weeks. Most people do not experience all of these side effects, as some are specific to certain types of medications that may not all be prescribed to the same patient.
What Happens If A Patient Forgets A Dose?
In almost all cases, if a patient misses a dose, they should take their medication as quickly as possible and then resume their regular schedule after that. However, if possible, a health care provider should be consulted. There may be situations where this is the wrong course of action.
What Are The Most Important Things To Remember About HIV Treatment?
Medications need to be taken at the same time every day. It might become necessary for patients to rearrange their schedules to account for their medications. Doing things like setting alarms and placing reminders in places they will be seen are a great idea. Have a calendar to make marks on to check off when medications have been taken. There are smartphone apps that help patients remember when to take their medications. Almost all of them are free and they are a great resource. Lastly, patients should ask friends and family members to both remind them to take their medications.