What do I need to know about treatment?

Treatment helps you stay healthy by stopping HIV from making copies of itself in your body. With treatment, your immune system can get stronger. HIV treatment can also prevent other health problems.

The sooner you start HIV treatment, the better it is for your long-term health. Research shows that people who start treatment soon after getting HIV and get good care can expect to live a normal lifespan.

Having an undetectable viral load also eliminates the risk of passing HIV to your sex partners. Similarly, when a person starts treatment before getting pregnant and maintains an undetectable viral load throughout their pregnancy, there is no risk of them passing HIV to their baby during pregnancy or childbirth. Having an undetectable viral load also lowers the chance of passing HIV when sharing equipment used for injecting drugs, but we don't know by how much.

Take HIV drugs as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss too many doses, the HIV in your body can become drug-resistant and the HIV drugs you’re taking will stop working. If this happens, you’ll have to change your drugs, which will leave you with fewer treatment options for the future.

Newer HIV drugs are much easier to take than older drugs, but some may still cause side effects. These often go away after a few days or weeks. Taking your medications with a meal sometimes helps. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can suggest ways to manage any side effects. If side effects persist and make it difficult to keep taking your drugs, your doctor might be able to recommend other drugs that would be easier for you to take.