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Section One: What Everyone Should Know

Part One of Three in Project Inform's "What You Should Know About When to Start and What Meds to Use" Booklet

January 2013

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Herbs, Prescriptions and HIV Meds

Herbs, Prescriptions and HIV Meds

Using HIV meds with some herbal products and supplements can sometimes cause serious interactions. It's wise to understand this issue and discuss it with your doctors. Much of what we know about these interactions comes from people talking to their doctors, from cases seen in emergency rooms, and occasionally from clinical studies.

A few supplements are known to affect the blood levels of HIV meds. For example, St. John's Wort and perhaps milk thistle may cause your regimen not to work as well as it could. Ask your doctor, pharmacist or a trained nutritionist on ways to avoid unwanted interactions.

Sometimes more of a good thing isn't good after all. Large doses, or mega-doses, of some supplements can actually damage the liver. Before taking mega-doses of any supplement, discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist.

Other prescription meds like drugs used for erections (Cialis, Levitra, Viagra) can cause severe low blood pressure and death when taken with protease inhibitors. Talk to your medical provider about drug interactions.

Main Points to Remember

  • Some herbal products, including St. John's Wort, may cause some HIV drugs not work as well as they could.
  • Large doses of some supplements can cause liver damage.
  • Some prescription drugs like Viagra, can cause severe and sometimes life-threatening interactions.

When Will You See a Cure for HIV?

When HIV was first identified in 1983, the United States announced (very prematurely) that a vaccine was right around the corner. Well, it's 30 years later and a vaccine still hasn't been found, nor has a cure.


Today's treatments have radically reduced the profound illness that most people with HIV used to have. People are now living quite healthfully with near-normal life spans.

Still, many people are not satisfied with thinking that lifelong treatment is the best we can do.

Despite the various scientific disappointments along the way, many people now believe that curing HIV is within our reach. We're seeing a concentrated amount of new cure research being done. Much of this has come about from a single case of curing the "Berlin patient" in 2007.

You may have heard about Timothy Brown, an HIV-positive American who had become sick from leukemia while living in Germany. His illness gave his doctors a chance to experiment with a unique but risky procedure to cure not only his leukemia but his HIV. And it seems to have worked.

This procedure has opened the eyes of researchers to new ideas for curing HIV. Many hope this research will lead to either a sterilizing cure (completely getting rid of HIV) or a functional cure (keeping HIV so low that the immune system controls it on its own).

We're still early in our search for the cure, but this is an exceptional start to the research. Many people are hoping that, within your lifetime, you will see a cure for HIV.

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More From This Resource Center

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Begin HIV Treatment

Are Your HIV Meds Working? Warning Signs and False Alarms

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"Now That You've Started Treatment": Table of Contents
Section Two: Special Situations

This article was provided by Project Inform. Visit Project Inform's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.


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