If you are starting HIV treatment, you probably have many questions. The good news is that newer HIV drugs are much easier to take than older drugs. Also, research now shows that if you start treatment soon after getting HIV and get good care, you can expect to live a normal lifespan.

Treatment has many benefits. It helps you stay healthy by stopping HIV from making copies of itself in your body, and it can prevent other health problems. It can also reduce the amount of the virus in your body to levels that would not be picked up by HIV tests; this is called having an undetectable viral load. Having an undetectable viral load 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. An undetectable viral load also lowers the chance of passing HIV from sharing equipment for using drugs, but we don’t know exactly how much it reduces the risk. If you use new equipment each time you use drugs, there is no risk of getting HIV or other infections, such as hepatitis C, through drug use.

Nobody should ever be pressured to start treatment—you need to start when you are ready—but the benefits are undeniable. We now know that the sooner you start treatment, the better it is for your health.

For HIV drugs to remain effective, you need to take them as prescribed. If you miss doses, the HIV in your body can become drug-resistant and the HIV drugs you’re taking will stop working. Treatment is a lifelong commitment, but your healthcare providers can help you stay on track and ensure it works the best for you.

Newer HIV drugs are much easier to take than older drugs and often have minimal or no side effects. Most current treatments involve taking one tablet once a day. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any questions or if side effects persist.

You should also let them know if you are taking any other prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, supplements or other drugs (both legal and illegal). They can help you avoid any interactions between these other drugs and your HIV treatment.

To learn about HIV treatment, check out:

Your Guide to HIV Treatment – Comprehensive information about HIV treatment, including the benefits, how it works and how to make treatment work for you.

For more information on HIV treatment, check out:

The Power of Undetectable – How taking HIV treatment and maintaining an undetectable viral load prevents HIV transmission.

A Practical Guide to HIV Drug Side Effects for People Living with HIV – This guide provides an overview of common side effects associated with HIV treatment. It offers tips on how to manage symptoms and presents information about possible causes and when to seek medical care.

Other helpful resources:

Common HIV drugs available in Canada for adults – A list of HIV medications commonly prescribed in Canada.

The HIV/HCV Drug Therapy Guide – An app and website where you can check for interactions between HIV treatments and other medications.