Managing HIV – what’s involved?
HIV treatments have come a long way in the past 20 years and are now more effective and safer than ever. Most people with HIV who take modern treatments experience very few and only minor side effects and the vast majority (around 90%) will achieve an undetectable viral load. This means that no active virus can be detected in a blood test and there will be no progression of the disease. In fact, people with HIV who take their medication routinely, as prescribed, and maintain an undetectable viral load are expected to have a normal life expectancy.
But because HIV cannot currently be cured, managing it is a lifelong journey. Fortunately, the management of HIV doesn’t need to be especially complicated or demanding. However, it does require ongoing attention.
It is also now recommended that all people with HIV take treatment, irrespective of how long they have been infected or how healthy their immune system remains. This is because HIV can cause damage even in very healthy people. And because treatments are relatively safe and easy to take, there’s no longer a downside to starting as soon as possible.
For people who are stable on treatment it is recommended they visit their HIV doctor three or four times a year for blood tests and new scripts. For most people, the daily routine of taking pills is the most important challenge they face. Many people have trouble remembering to take pills, on time, all of the time. But because of the way HIV works, it is especially important to get this right with HIV treatments. Missed doses can lead to the development of resistance which then may necessitate a change of treatments. Tips about remembering doses can be found in the adherence section of HIV Tests and Treatments.
Some couples find treatment adherence is something they can work on together by sharing a routine and reminding one another. For example, if the HIV negative partner takes regular medication or vitamins, is it possible to synchronise your doses? Perhaps aligning with an activity you do together everyday, like eating a meal together. Even if the HIV negative partner doesn’t take regular medications, aligning HIV medications with a daily routine can often be enough of a memory trigger for both of you.