Table of Contents
Using This Booklet
The main focus of this booklet is to get you thinking about HIV and your health. Because treating HIV can be complex and because only you can take the medicines your body needs, your ability to commit to the meds are a critical part of your health decisions.
Getting the earliest treatment is generally recommended for most illnesses. HIV may not be any different; except that once it's started, treatment is for life. On one hand, deciding the best time to start HIV meds is a matter of personal choice. On the other, study results increasingly lean toward starting earlier.
Some experts believe that starting meds is appropriate immediately after finding out your diagnosis. Waiting might allow HIV to progress further and do more damage to your immune system and to other body systems and organs such as your heart, blood vessels and kidneys.
At a minimum, most doctors would agree that it's necessary to start meds when HIV symptoms are present, your CD4 count is falling, or your viral load is high and rising.
How Is Today Different From Earlier in the Epidemic?
Treating HIV is very different today than what it was earlier in the epidemic. People are now healthier and living longer on HIV meds, and many can start with a full regimen of just one or two pills taken once or twice a day. There are fewer food restrictions, and drugs are generally easier to take and tolerate.
Perhaps some of the things you believe about today's medicines are not -- or are no longer -- true. Concerns still linger in the community about severe side effects and how someone might look after being on meds for awhile. Newer regimens generally have fewer and more manageable side effects. The drugs that caused the most problems are rarely used for people starting treatment in the US.
Over the years, public health care programs as well as private health insurance have greatly improved their HIV care, allowing more people to find and pay for stable medical care. The medical community also has a great deal more experience treating HIV today.