An HIV-positive diagnosis is life-changing and triggers difficult emotions compounded by stress and anxiety about your health, about your future. If you test positive for HIV, it is essential to begin treatment immediately to protect and prolong your health, as well as the health of your partner. Although there is no cure for HIV, there are effective treatments available that can help you lead a normal, healthy life and even suppress the virus and prevent transmission to others.

Defining HIV

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) attacks the body’s immune system. If left untreated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV infection that severely compromises the immune system and can be potentially life-threatening. However, by treating HIV with a daily medication regiment, you can suppress the virus from growing and protect your immune system.

Due to the development and availability of quality treatments including antiretroviral therapy (ART), people with HIV now live longer — and with a better quality of life — than ever before. Although people living with HIV can enjoy long, healthy lives, starting medical care as soon as you are diagnosed is necessary for long-term health.

Treatment as Prevention

Taking daily ART medications lower the amount of HIV in your body and can make the viral load so low that even a test can no longer detect HIV, also known as an undetectable viral load. The benefits of ART include slowing the progression of HIV, protecting your immune system and, by establishing an undetectable viral load, it helps to prevent transmission of the virus to others, including sexual partners. Keeping your viral load low typically helps you stay healthy, even with a HIV-positive diagnosis.

Eventually, as your treatment for HIV progresses over at least six months, HIV medication can reduce your viral load to a very low level called viral suppression. Viral suppression means the medication has stopped or “suppressed” HIV from growing in your body. Viral suppression also prevents illnesses that can severely damage a compromised immune system.

In addition, treatment as prevention or TasP embraces the use of ART as a highly effective method to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV. This means that if you are HIV-positive and your partner is HIV-negative, if you have an undetectable viral load, you cannot transmit the virus to your partner during sex. For TasP to work successfully, a person living with HIV must take his or her HIV medication exactly as prescribed, in combination with consistent follow-up care such as regular viral load tests to ensure the viral load stays undetectable.

However, it is important to continue your daily regiment exactly as prescribed, because if you stop taking HIV medication, your viral load will quickly go back up, along with all of the risks to you and your partner.

Although an HIV-positive diagnosis can be initially devastating, seeking treatment and counseling immediately can reduce your fears and provide hope for the future. Getting started on a daily HIV medicine routine and regular follow ups with your physician can essentially turn the disease into a chronic illness and prevent you from the fear of developing late-stage HIV or AIDS.

Access to HIV Treatment

Ways to access treatment…

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