What if I delay treatment?March 19, 2021
Does HIV medicine cause side effects?March 19, 2021
Treatment Reduces the Amount of HIV in the Blood
- The amount of HIV in the blood is called viral load.
- Taking your HIV medicine as prescribed will help keep your viral load low and your CD4 cell count high.
- HIV medicine can make the viral load very low (called viral suppression). Viral suppression is defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood.
- HIV medicine can make the viral load so low that a test can’t detect it (called an undetectable viral load).
- If your viral load goes down after starting HIV treatment, that means treatment is working. Continue to take your medicine as prescribed.
- If you skip your medications, even now and then, you are giving HIV the chance to multiply rapidly. This could weaken your immune system, and you could become sick.
- Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load (or staying virally suppressed) is the best way to stay healthy and protect others.
Treatment Helps Prevent Transmission to Others
- If you have an undetectable viral load, you have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
- Having an undetectable viral load may also help prevent transmission from injection drug use. We don’t have data about whether having an undetectable viral load prevents transmission through sharing needles, syringes, or other injection equipment (for example, cookers). It very likely reduces the risk, but we don’t know by how much.
- Having an undetectable viral load also helps prevent transmission from mother to baby. If a mother with HIV takes HIV medicine as prescribed throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery and gives HIV medicine to her baby for 4 to 6 weeks after birth, the risk of transmitting HIV to her baby can be 1% or less.
- Having an undetectable viral load reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby through breastfeeding, but doesn’t eliminate the risk. The current recommendation in the United States is that mothers with HIV should not breastfeed their babies.
Taking Treatment as Prescribed Helps Prevent Drug Resistance
- Taking HIV medication consistently, as prescribed, helps prevent drug resistance.
- Drug resistance develops when people with HIV are inconsistent with taking their HIV medication as prescribed. The virus can change (mutate) and will no longer respond to certain HIV medication.
- If you develop drug resistance, it will limit your options for successful HIV treatment.
- Drug-resistant strains of HIV can be transmitted to others.