People living with HIV can take medicine called anti-retrovirals to treat HIV.
* HIV treatment medicine is now very effective in keeping the amount of virus in a person’s body under control and preventing the immune system from being damaged. But the treatment cannot cure HIV.
* It is recommended that people living with HIV start taking HIV medicine as soon as possible after diagnosis to limit damage to the immune system. If the treatment tablets are taken as prescribed, the level of the virus in the blood can reduce to such a low level that it’s undetectable in tests.
Only doctors who have done a special training course can prescribe HIV treatment drugs.
Checking Viral Load
People with HIV have blood tests to check the amount of HIV in their blood. This is to check to see how well the treatment medication is working. This is call testing the viral load.
* HIV medicine can limit the amount of HIV in your blood, by stopping it from making new copies of the virus.
* If medicines are taken as prescribed the amount of virus in your blood can reduce down to a very low level.
* Only your doctor will be able to tell you the amount of virus in your blood, based on the results of a viral load blood test.
If the doctor says you have an “undetectable” viral load this does not mean the HIV is gone but it means the HIV load is so low it was “undetectable” in the test.
If a person with HIV stops taking the treatment tablets their viral load will go up again – and they’ll get sick.
What is U=U?
If you have HIV and the level of virus in your blood is “undetectable”, it means the virus is not fighting against your immune system and making you sick. It also means you cannot pass HIV on to other people. This is commonly known as U=U meaning “undetectable = untransmissible”.
Read more about U=U in our TasP factsheet
In bed with U=U
The Institute of Many (TIM) have come up with some great videos, this clip features Davey talking about why U=U is important to him. Davey is a Bidjara, Wakka Wakka, Gubbi Gubbi man who grew up in Western Queensland.
* All medicines have possible side effects, but not everybody will experience them.
* Most side effects from HIV medicines are manageable.
* Overall, the benefits of HIV medicines far outweigh the risk of side effects.
* As HIV medicines improve there are fewer side effects.