Considering HIV Treatment
Table of Contents
Treatment with HIV drugs can improve quality of life and help people living with HIV (HIV-positive people) stay healthier longer. But starting treatment is a big decision. In order to get the most benefit from HIV drugs, they must be used just the way they are prescribed. Taking your treatment correctly is as important as which drugs you and your health care provider choose. So before you get started, make sure you are ready to commit to taking your HIV drugs the right way, every day for your own health! This takes a combination of the right health care provider, enough knowledge about HIV, and a positive attitude.
You and your health care provider are a team working together to make the best treatment decisions for you. Ask yourself a few questions: Do I have confidence in my provider? Can I be totally honest with him or her? Is he or she available when I have questions? Does he or she take my concerns seriously? If so, great!
If not, try to make changes. Write down the questions you would like to ask your health care provider before you go to visits. It is important to answer your provider's questions with the truth, not with what you think she or he wants to hear. If that still does not work, it may be time to look for another provider.
It is also wise to have a health care provider who is an HIV specialist. Health care providers who devote most of their time to HIV are best able to manage this complicated condition. Helpful suggestions for HIV specialists near you can come from friends, ASOs (AIDS Service Organizations), or by checking with the American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM). To find an ASO in your area, click here or look at the AAHIVM's Referral Link.
HIV is a virus that infects and destroys CD4 cells. CD4 cells are part of the body's immune system. The immune system protects the body from germs. When the immune system loses too many CD4 cells, it becomes weak and is unable to fight off germs. At this point, HIV+ people are at risk of getting opportunistic infections (OIs) that can cause serious illness or death.
Scientists have developed drugs that stop HIV from making copies of itself (multiplying). These drugs are grouped into classes. Each class of drugs works to stop HIV at a certain point in its life cycle. So far there are five classes of drugs:
HIV drugs are always used in combination to attack the virus at different points in its life cycle. This usually means using drugs from at least two different classes. Combining HIV drugs is the best way to reduce the amount of HIV in your blood (viral load).
Baseline Blood Tests
Before you start HIV treatment, your health care provider should have you take a number of blood tests. These are your original, or baseline tests. Future test results will be compared to your baseline results to see how you are doing and how well your treatment is working.
This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
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