Your Treatment Plan

There is no single "right" way to be treated for HIV. To make the best use of all HIV medications, you need to work closely with your health care provider to make a treatment plan. You will also need to know basic information about HIV, how HIV medications work and how you should take them.

What Does HIV Do?

Shortly after infection, HIV invades and destroys T-Cells (also called CD4 cells) in your immune system. HIV uses these T-cells to make copies of itself.

Over time, the number of T-cells in your body decreases and the amount of virus (viral load) increases.

HIV medications stop HIV from multiplying in the body.

The goal of treatment is to keep your number of T-cells high and your viral load low or undetectable.

How HIV drugs work

HIV medications are also called "antiretroviral drugs." They stop HIV from being able to make copies of itself.

There are 3 main classes of antiretroviral drugs.

Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors.

Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors

Protease Inhibitors

Each class of drug works in a different way to stop HIV. By combining 2 or 3 drugs, it is possible to stop HIV in its tracks and reverse the damage done by HIV to your immune system.

Which Treatment is Right for You?

Each person responds differently to HIV medications. The goal is to find and use the combination of drugs that works best for you.

You and your health care provider will consider:

Which combination has the best chance of reducing HIV for the longest time.

Which combination will best maintain or increase your T-cell count.

Other medications you take that might interfere with the HIV drugs.

Possible Side Effects.

How many pills you will need to take and what times of the day you will need to take them.

What are your options if the combination stops working.

Taking HIV Medications

How you take your HIV medications depends on which drugs you and your health care provider choose.

It's important you:

TAKE THE DRUGS EXACTLY AS DIRECTED. Most treatments involve taking several pills once or twice a day. Some pills must be taken with food and some need to be taken on an empty stomach.

DON'T SKIP DOSES. Work with your health care provider to decide on a schedule you can stick with. HIV can become resistant to treatment if you miss doses.

STORE THEM CORRECTLY. Some drugs are best kept in the refrigerator. Ask your pharmacist how to take care of your medications.

*Used with permission from AIDS Healthcare Foundation 2003