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How to Use This Guide
Part of A Practical Guide to HIV Drug Treatment for People Living With HIV


In a Capsule

  • This guide is meant to be a practical source of information about drug treatment for HIV. It should not replace your doctor's advice but may help you to ask the right questions.
  • We will look at when it's best to start treatment, how to choose between drugs, and how to make sure your treatment is working for you.
  • Since drug treatments and guidelines are constantly changing, we will try to stick to the more general issues and questions about treatment. You should always get the most up-to-date facts about specific drugs and treatment.

Welcome to the second edition of A Practical Guide to HIV Drug Treatment (formerly A Practical Guide to HAART), published by CATIE (the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange). Thanks to advances in HIV treatment, prospects for people living with HIV and AIDS are better than ever before. However, all the treatment options now available make for many decisions -- a process that HIV-positive people often find confusing and sometimes stressful. Pill charts keep getting bigger, medical words are everywhere, and a lot of people feel like they don't know where to start.

In this guide, we hope to help you understand the following:

Throughout the guide you will find the voices of people living with HIV in boxes like this one. They share their experiences with HIV treatment and offer advice on how to live well with HIV.

As the title says, this publication is meant to be a practical guide. Feel free to use it any way that suits you. If you have only recently been diagnosed as HIV-positive, or if you want a refresher on the basics, you may want to start right at the beginning. If you've been positive for some time and you know a lot already, please skip straight to the parts you want to know more about.

In this guide, we tackle the big questions like "Do I have to go on treatment at all?", "When should I start?" and "Which drugs are best?" Of course, the answers to these questions change with time, as new treatments and new information become available. However, a lot of the underlying issues -- the benefits and challenges of treatment, factors to consider when you're making decisions, questions to ask your doctor -- stay largely the same. We've tried to focus on those issues that don't change as quickly.

We've also tried to make this practical guide work with other CATIE publications and resources, including our indispensible Managing Your Health: a guide for people living with HIV. Managing Your Health covers a lot of ground, including some of the issues discussed here. While you may notice many similarities between the two publications, this practical guide provides more detailed information about HIV treatment.

It's not what you know -- it's what you know to ask.

-- Ron

For the most up-to-date information on specific drugs and treatments, there is a lot more "stuff" out there you can refer to. CATIE produces CATIE News and TreatmentUpdate, two publications that provide timely reporting on the latest developments in HIV treatment. We also maintain a set of up-to-date fact sheets with extensive information on different anti-HIV drugs and treatment topics -- you can find these on the CATIE website at (We provide links to many other reputable online sources of HIV treatment information as well.) You can email or call CATIE with any questions, and we'll do our best to answer them. Get in touch with us at or 1-800-263-1638. Most importantly, don't forget that none of this information can replace the advice of your doctor.

You can also use this guide as a bit of a workbook. We know it's easy to remember things until the moment you're in your doctor's office, then ... Poof! Your mind goes blank. So we've included a few simple tools: charts you can use to keep track of your health information, checklists of questions and concerns that you can take with you when you visit your doctor, and questions to ask yourself when you're trying to make decisions.

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General Disclaimer: is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.