Living with HIV

There is no cure for HIV infection. The virus does not disappear from the body, but development of the illness can be inhibited through drug treatment, so-called ‘antiretrovirals’.

Antiretrovirals counteract the activity and replication of HIV in the body. As a result, the immune system can function better. This means that there are few or no symptoms that people with HIV would have without treatment.

The problem with antiretroviral treatment is that people have to take the pills at fixed times, once or twice a day, every day for the rest of their lives. This ‘treatment adherence’ is a condition for successful treatment.

The medications can also have side effects, like nausea and changes in the distribution of fat throughout the body. Other bodily functions need to be regularly checked, like liver and kidney function, that can be overstrained by the medication.

If a test shows that HIV is present in the blood, it does not necessarily mean that treatment will begin immediately. Treatment starts in consultation with an HIV treatment provider, a specialist in this field. He or she follows guidelines that apply to all HIV treatment providers.

It is important to begin combination therapy early, before HIV leads to disease symptoms. The state of a person’s immune system determines when he or she should begin combination therapy. As a result, a person with HIV has to visit the doctor regularly to check their immune system.

Thanks to combination therapy, a person with HIV can live a relatively normal life. Without treatment, a person with HIV gets ill quicker and there is a greater chance that they will die from the consequences of it.