Some Questions About Antiretroviral Treatment For HIV

A doctor at a free HIV test clinic discusses results with a patient.

It is normal for any person to have many questions in their mind before starting HIV treatment. Some of the common questions that professionals in free STD and HIV testing facilities face daily and their answers are shared below.

What Is Antiretroviral Treatment? 

Antiretroviral treatment (ART) is a common treatment for HIV. Taking ART medications will allow people with HIV to live healthy lives. It is essential to note that ART is not a cure for HIV. It only helps keep the problem under control, so that it does not affect the health of the person thereby allowing the person to carry on with life. 

How Does ART Work? 

Without any treatment, HIV can affect the immune system making the person vulnerable to many illnesses. Antiretroviral treatment aims at ceasing the virus from procreating. This helps in keeping the number of viruses in the body of the person low and protects the immune system, thereby decreasing the chance of infections.

With proper treatment and healthcare, HIV-positive persons can expect to live as long as others. By keeping the number of viruses in the body low, ART can also reduce the risk of HIV being passed on. HIV-positive people who take proper treatment can achieve a state called ‘undetectable viral load.’ In this condition, the amount of the virus in the body of the person will be reduced to such low levels that it cannot be passed on to another person via sex. To understand if you have an undetectable viral load, you need to have regular appointments with your healthcare team and get the viral load measured in free clinic HIV testing.

When Should ART Be Started? 

If you are diagnosed with HIV, it is recommended to start ART straight away. As they say – The sooner, the better. Starting the treatment straight away can protect your immune system from damage. Moreover, it can ensure the best chance of staying healthy and strong.

You should feel ready to start the treatment and should ensure to take it properly. Understand that the treatment has to be taken for the rest of your life if you are diagnosed with HIV. Apart from talking to your healthcare provider, you can also talk with someone who has experience undergoing antiretroviral treatment. You can also find peer mentors in many clinics who can provide support and information. They can also introduce you to certain community organizations or to a few peer support groups.