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Managing Side Effects of HIV TreatmentManaging Side Effects of HIV Treatment
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Is it time to stop taking Meds...?
Nov 10, 2010

I found out I was HIV+ one year ago and began taking Atripla soon after. I have responded well so far and my CD4 has risen from 750 to 900+. My Doctor believes this early treatment may have prevented some of the spread of HIV through my body and has now suggested I stop taking meds altogether. I'm worried that without medication I'll undo any gains made from early treatment and expose my body to further damage. Being an otherwise healthy, active 38yo male, what are the Pros and Cons of discontinuing medication at this point ? Thanks )

Response from Dr. Henry

Experts are currently split about whether ART use should be recommended for otherwise healthy persons with CD4 count > 500. For persons already on Atripla, stopping Atripla can be tricky often done with brief use of a boosted protease inhibitor to try and prevent development of resistance to efavirenz (with its long term persistence in the blood). The possible benefits of ART in persons with CD4 count > 500 include a reduction in non-AIDS clinical events (ie heart disease and cancer) and decrease risk of transmission to others. Firm data on that is still minimal/modest. Stopping meds usually leads to return of HIV levels to range similar to level before treatment and loss of CD4 cells. Thus treating early to prevent spread throughout body with the idea that meds could be stopped later hasn't generally been shown to work. The decision whether to stop thus in individualized though the growing trend to to recommend continued treatment. KH

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