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When to take a break from meds
Jul 4, 2004

I recently spoke to somebody who said her doctor said it's a good idea to take a break from taking meds so that her body doesn't become immune to the meds. I realize it varies from person to person, but is there a general rule of thumb to this theory? My viral load is undetectable and my CD4 count is 350. When I first started the meds a year ago, my CD4 count was 128 and my viral load was 5,000. Also, I see my doctor every six months. Is this enough? I heard some people go every three to four months. Thanks.

Response from Dr. Lee

I believe that your friend probably misunderstood what her doctor said. It is NOT a good idea to take a break from medicine to "keep your body from becoming immune to the meds". There may be other reasons to consider switching or stopping medicines.

"Immunity" (actually viral resistance) develops when the virus is not fully supressed by the medication regimen. So, if the medicine is not really working, it is good to stop taking it so the virus doesn't develop more resistance.

The timing of visits is determined by how you are doing with the treatment. If you are on meds, have completely shut down the virus, have a steady or rising t-cell count and don't miss doses, you probably don't need to be seen as often. If any of those are problems, you should probably have testing done more regularly.

If the virus gets out from under the medicines, it only takes a few days to weeks for that failure to develop into full-blown resistance to one or more of the medicines. Clearly, it is best to "catch it" right away if that is happening.

Be well.

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