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Managing Side Effects of HIV TreatmentManaging Side Effects of HIV Treatment
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Pros & Cons From Not Taking Medications
Jun 11, 2008

I have recently tested HIV positive. I take no medication. What are the pros & cons of continuing without medication. Can a person within their first year of HIV encounter significant medical issues, if so, what might they be? Currently my CD4 is at 407, and viral loads are around 10,000...I have recently experienced swelling in the nerve of one of my eyes, I've been tested for everything, but they have not found the cause. Steroids are an option, but my doctor suggested we wait to see if the swelling goes away by its self. I am also feeling tierd, with a lack of concentration. It's like not knowing where to start some morning.

Response from Dr. Henry

The current threshold for recommending starting antiretroviral therapy in the US for asymptomatic patients is a CD4 count < 350. There is yet no consensus as to whether it is overall benefical to start ART at higher CD4 counts partly since short term risk for AIDS is low at those levels. CD4 counts < 500 may be linked to a range of non-AIDS medical problems in HIV+ persons (such as heart disease and cancer) but it is not proven that treatment will eliminate all HIV related health problems. If a patient is having symptoms likely due to HIV and/or has a high viral load (> 100,000) then consideration is more often given to start ART at higher CD4 counts. Your HIV specialist is the best person to assess the potential benefits in your case after thorough evaluation and discussion with you. KH

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