therapy is the term for
using three or more drugs to treat
HIV. Treatment works for women,
men and children. It works no
matter how you were infected with
HIV. At some point, most HIV-positive
people will need treatment. It
is recommended to start treatment
before your CD4 count falls below
is combination therapy?
therapy is the term for using three or more
drugs to treat HIV. It is also called triple
or quadruple therapy or HAART (Highly Active
Anti-Retroviral Therapy).HIV drugs are also
called ARVs. These drugs work in different
ways and at different stages of the HIV
the drugs really work?
In every country that uses HAART, AIDS-related
deaths and illnesses have dropped dramatically.Treatment
works for women, men and children. It works
no matter how you were infected with HIV.
Whether this was sexually, through IV drug
use, or by blood transfusion. Taking HIV
drugs, exactly as prescribed, will reduce
the virus in your body to tiny amounts.
This then lets your immune system recover
and get stronger by itself. Regular monitoring,
using blood tests, will check that the drugs
continue to work Viral load tests measure
the amount of HIV in your blood. Results
are given as copies/mL. CD4 tests measure
how strong your immune system is. Results
are given as cells/mL. mL is an abbreviation
for millilitre or cubic millimetre, a standard
measurement for volumes of liquid –
another abbreviation for this is mm3 Even
if you start with a very low CD4 count,
you could regain enough of your own immune
system for your body to recover from many
HIV-related illnesses.If you use HIV treatment
at the right time, and in the right way,
you should stay well much longer.
long will the drugs work?
Combination therapy using at least three
drugs has now been used for over ten years.
Many of the individual drugs have been studied
for even longer.The length of time that
any combination will work depends mainly
on you not developing resistance. This depends
on getting, and keeping, your viral load
to undetectable levels, below 50 copies/mL.If
your viral load stays undetectable, you
can use the same combination for many years.UK
guidelines state that getting your viral
load below 50 is a main goal when starting
everyone need treatment?
some point, most HIV-positive people will
need treatment. When people will need it
though, can vary a lot. HIV infection progresses
in different people at very different rates.
About one third of HIV-positive people will
stay well for up to 10 years after infection,
even without treatment. About 60% will start
treatment after 4-5 years. 2-3% of people
can become ill more quickly and need treatment
much earlier. 2-3% can go for 15-20 years
without treatment. Whether you need treatment
is something you have to discuss with your
doctor. This will usually take place over
as many questions as possible until
you are happy with the answers.
Get useful information from other sources.
This includes the internet, friends,
newsletters and phonelines.
Even if you are well, it is a good idea
to get to know something about treatment
now, before you need it. This is particularly
important if your CD4 count is falling,
or if you have a high viral load.
I start treatment?
When to start treatment is something you
and your doctor must discuss together. You
are the person who has to take the pills.
So you have the choice over whether you
start, as well as which drugs you use.It
is recommended to start treatment before
your CD4 count falls below 200. Even at
this level, there is unlikely to be an urgent
need for you to start treatment straight
away, if you are not ready.Ask
your doctor to tell you about the different
drugs that you can use. You need to know
the good and bad things about each of them.
Take time to think about what you want to
do. Do not feel rushed or pressurised into
doing something you don’t understand.
If you have only recently been diagnosed
HIV-positive, you will need to deal with
that first. Although you may be worried
about using treatments, HIV and AIDS is
still a very real and life-threatening illness.
It is possible to delay treatment until
it is too late. Illnesses that can occur
at any time when your CD4 count is below
200 can be fatal. While your CD4 count is
above 300 you still have a good immune system.
Below 300 you are at a higher risk of infections
that cause diarrhoea and weight loss.If
your CD4 count falls below 200, your risk
of developing a pneumonia called PCP increases.
If it falls below 100, then your risk of
serious illnesses increases even further.A
low CD4 count does not mean that you will
definitely become ill. It is, however, much
more likely. Most of the drugs used to treat
these HIV-related illnesses can be more
toxic and difficult to take than regular
look at the drugs you start with now as
a treatment that you will be taking forever.
Look at them as something you have to be
really committed to for the next couple
of years. Take this new aspect of your life
more seriously than anything else until
you get it right.
drugs work at different stages of the HIV
HIV uses CD4 cells as factories to make
hundreds of copies of itself - entry inhibitors
work by stopping HIV getting into the CD4
cell, nukes & non-nukes (NNRTIs) work
by stopping one of the main ways HIV reproduces
inside the CD4 cell, protease inhibitors
work by stopping any new HIV virus from
leaving the CD4 cell.
to "Oncology Treatment"