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Anti-HIV Medications:
An Aid for Exploring Treatment Options

July 1997

  1. The following table can be used as an aid for decision-making on treatment options. It is intended as a tool for discussing treatment strategies with your doctor or health-care providers, and not for self-medication. Tables such as these are always changing as new information comes in, and this one is no different. This table might be outdated or in need of revision very soon, although it can always serve as a reference point.

  2. When you and your doctor (or health-care providers) are considering whether or not you should start (or change) your combination therapy, the following aspects should be taken into account:

    • your T-cell count;

    • your viral load (the amount of virus in your blood);


    • whether or not you have HIV disease symptoms;

    • whether or not you are "ready&quot to start treatment;

    • which combination is the one right for you;

    • your prior experience with anti-HIV medications.

  3. This table lists medications on their own, although no one should be taking just one anti-HIV medication any longer, regardless of T-cell count or viral load. Anti-HIV medications stop working rather quickly when they are not used in combinations (in combinations of at least two, perhaps three, sometimes even four).

  4. There are so many possibilities in terms of combination therapies that it would take pages and pages to list them all, so you can see this table as something that can help you to make decisions with your doctor or health-care provider.

  5. You are better off with a doctor or health-care provider who has a lot of experience treating people living with HIV. Since there are so many combinations available, it is almost impossible to know enough about all of them, especially when it comes to issues related to efficacy, interactions among different medications, side-effect control, etc.

  6. Also if you decide to "go on combination," you need to stick to it. Once you start it, you need to be consistent and come up with a plan of how to incorporate those medications in your life.

  7. If you take your anti-HIV medications consistently and follow closely the instructions on how to take each one of them, there is a good chance that your medications will remain effective over a long period of time (the length of time will vary from person to person). Consistency is the goal.

    • Whenever you and your health-care provider choose a treatment regimen, line up a second treatment option as well. Your first option might not work for you initially or might cease to work in the future, so be prepared.

    • Drugs might fail for any of the following reasons:

      you experience unacceptable side-effects or discomfort;

      it is too difficult to incorporate those medications in your daily routine;

      absorption problems: your body eliminates much of the medication, so that there is not enough to fight off HIV;

      the virus becomes resistant to the medications: it "learns" how "to get around" your medications;

      other reasons.

    • Your second treatment option should have at least two new drugs or, ideally, all new ones, because no single drug should be added to a failing therapy (that is the equivalent of taking the new drug on its own).

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This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.