Are you considering starting
HIV treatment?

Thinking about beginning HIV treatment for the first time can be overwhelming. Many people with HIV struggle with fears and questions about starting treatment, and that’s understandable. There’s so much information out there that it can be confusing.

That’s where this site comes in. It provides helpful information about HIV and treatment. You can also listen to personal stories from people like you living with HIV.

Scroll down to take the Hang-Up Quiz. It can help you address some of the issues you may have about starting treatment.

hang-up quiz

There is a lot of information out there about starting HIV treatment. Some of it is true, but some of it is false. Can you tell the difference? Take our Hang-Up Quiz to find out.

All HIV medicines make people feel worse because of side effects.

Before starting treatment, talk with your healthcare provider about your concerns. All medicines, including those for HIV, have benefits and risks. There are many types of HIV medicines, and the side effects vary, depending on the medicine. Not everyone has the same reaction to medicine. Some people taking the same medicine may not have the same side effects. And some people may feel better once they start HIV treatment. If you’ve already started treatment, tell your healthcare provider about any side effects you have.

HIV treatment will affect my daily routine.

Each person’s daily routine is unique and very important to them. So it’s understandable to have concerns about how HIV treatment will affect that routine. Fortunately, there are different types of HIV treatment. Before starting treatment, talk with your healthcare provider about what’s important to you and your daily routine. Tell your healthcare provider if you’re worried about potential side effects, or anything else that could impact your daily routine. There are choices in HIV treatment, and your healthcare provider can work with you to find what’s best for you.

It’s better to wait until I am sick to start taking HIV medicine.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends beginning treatment for HIV after your diagnosis to keep you as healthy as possible and to also lower your chance of transmitting the virus to others. Have a conversation with your healthcare provider about your treatment options. Keep in mind that HIV slowly destroys your immune system. If you wait until you get sick to begin treatment, your immune system may not be able to recover.

I don’t have a choice in the HIV treatment I am going to be on.

Even though your healthcare provider makes the choice in your treatment, you have an important say in the decision. So tell your healthcare provider what’s important to you and any concerns you may have about HIV treatment. Also, be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal or dietary supplements, and about any other health conditions you have. This will help him or her determine which HIV treatment might be best for you. Here’s a tool to help you start the conversation with your healthcare provider.

We hope we were able to clear up some of the hang-ups you may have about starting HIV treatment. But we aren’t done yet. Scroll to the next section for help dealing with HIV stigma.
You can also sign up for our e-mails for more information and support.

LET’S TALK ABOUT HIV STIGMA

Being concerned about what people might think about your HIV status is normal. When you decide it’s the right time to tell someone—whether it’s a trusted friend, family member, or coworker—the more you know about the disease, the easier it will be to address any questions you may get.

There may also be benefits to your emotional and mental health when you choose to disclose your HIV status. Being open about your status and your experience may help you cope and begin to work HIV treatment into your life. But everyone is different, so go at your own pace. If and when you’re ready to share, there is support.

For more information on sharing your HIV status, click here.

You don’t have to do it alone

It may help you to talk to others who are HIV positive about how they deal with stigma and disclosure. It might be scary, but you may be in a position to help stop the stigma by being part of an open discussion about HIV.

Your healthcare provider or local AIDS Service Organization (ASO) can provide helpful resources as well as guide you to support groups that can help you deal with HIV stigma.

Watch others living with HIV talk about stigma.

ABOUT HIV
TREATMENTS

You may be overwhelmed with concerns and questions about treatment after testing positive for HIV. Starting treatment is a big decision, and learning about HIV treatments will help you decide if you are ready to begin treatment. Partner with your healthcare provider.

Keep in mind:

  • A goal of HIV treatment is to lower your viral load as much as possible, keep it low, and increase your CD4+ T-cell count. Your viral load is the amount of virus in your blood, while CD4+ T-cells are a type of white blood cell that fights infections. An undetectable viral load means there are less than 50 copies of HIV-1 RNA per milliliter of blood.
  • You may have to take more than one pill per day to manage your HIV.
  • Some medicines can be taken any time of day without food or drink. Other medicines must be taken at a certain time of day or with food or drink.
  • Your healthcare provider will work with you to find a treatment plan that is right for you, while managing any possible side effects along the way.

Get to Know the Types of HIV Treatment

When you have a treatment discussion with your healthcare provider, it may help to understand the six classes of HIV medicines. Because each class attacks the virus at a different point, you’ll need to take medicines from at least two of these classes to manage your HIV.

Interfere with the virus’s ability to bind to the outer surface of the CD4+ T-cell co-receptor and prevent HIV from entering the CD4+ T-cell.
Interfere with the virus’s ability to fuse with the outer surface of the CD4+ T-cell membrane and prevent HIV from entering the CD4+ T-cell.
In order for HIV-1 to make more copies of itself, HIV needs to convert its RNA to DNA by using reverse transcriptase enzyme. NRTIs are fake DNA building blocks. When one of the fake building blocks is added to a growing HIV-1 DNA chain, the real DNA building blocks cannot be added on and the building of HIV-1 DNA stops. Thus, HIV-1 RNA can't be converted into HIV-1 DNA and inhibits reverse transcriptase.
In order for HIV-1 to make more copies of itself, HIV needs to convert its RNA to DNA by using reverse transcriptase enzyme. NNRTIs bind to the reverse transcriptase (RT) enzyme, interfering with its ability to convert HIV-1 RNA into HIV-1 DNA.
Interfere with the HIV enzyme integrase, which the virus uses to insert ("integrate") its genetic material (HIV-1 DNA) into the genetic material (DNA) of the CD4+ T-cell it has infected.
Interfere with the HIV enzyme called protease. When protease does not work properly, new HIV virus particles cannot be assembled.

Today, there are many HIV medicines available, including ones that are single-tablet regimens/combinations. This means that two or more of the above classes of medicines are combined in a single pill. You and your healthcare provider will work together to find the treatment regimen that works best for you. In the meantime, sign up for our e-mails for additional support.

Here's how some others have faced their fears.

THE TRUTH ABOUT SIDE EFFECTS

The truth is, HIV medicines sometimes have side effects. However, because each person responds differently, your experience with a certain medicine might not be the same as another person’s experience. It’s important to be aware of the potential side effects. When you decide to start treatment, you should also talk to your healthcare provider about any side effect or anything that you feel is different since starting HIV treatment, including changes in your body, mood, sleeping patterns, or appetite. Being open will help your healthcare provider to find the treatment that works best for you.

Keep The
Conversation Open

Remember, if you start a certain treatment and find that you’re having trouble dealing with side effects, talk to your healthcare provider about it. Keep track of any side effects and bring your notes to your next appointment. Your healthcare provider can work with you to find a treatment that your body may respond to better.

WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?

We hope the information on this site has helped you become a little more comfortable with the idea of starting HIV treatment. The next step is to make sure you have a healthcare provider you trust and are comfortable with. Your primary care physician may be able to treat your HIV, but you can always ask if he or she can refer you to an HIV specialist. Your local HIV testing site or an ASO is also a great place to go for a referral.

PREPARE FOR YOUR APPOINTMENTS

When you see your healthcare provider:

  • Bring a list of questions you may have. Need help finding the right words?
    Use our Doctor Discussion Guide to get started.
  • Tell him or her all the prescription medicines and over-the-counter medicines you are taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements.
  • Be prepared to review your medical history and lifestyle.
  • Always be open and honest—it will help your healthcare provider find the best treatment option for you.
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Did you know?

If you need help paying for your HIV medicines, financial assistance may be available through government programs. Some pharmaceutical companies have savings programs, too.

THINKING ABOUT STARTING TREATMENT?

Use the Treatment Readiness Quiz as a guide for discussions with your healthcare provider.

Starting HIV treatment will help to lower the amount of virus in my blood and increase the number of CD4+ T-cells.

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I am up to the task of taking HIV medicines each day.

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I am comfortable discussing my HIV with my healthcare provider.

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I know there could be side effects, but I can deal with that possibility.

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I feel that I have a good understanding of the HIV treatment options available.

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You’re on the right path.


It looks like it’s time to take an important next step toward starting your HIV treatment plan. Keep scrolling for information on support and talking to your healthcare provider.
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This quiz is not intended to diagnose a condition or disease state and does not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Please partner with your healthcare provider to determine if starting HIV treatment is the right choice for you.

BUILDING YOUR SUPPORT TEAM

Starting HIV treatment can be a good time to build or strengthen your circle of support. You may choose to include trusted friends or family members, your healthcare provider, an ASO case manager, and your pharmacist. They can help you manage your treatment regimen and provide needed support.

If you’re unsure about disclosing your status to family and friends, there are support resources that can help you prepare for the conversation.

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Setting Goals

It’s also important to set goals for your treatment. It may feel overwhelming in the beginning, but you’re not facing treatment alone. Get help setting your goals here. Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop a treatment plan and appointment schedule. Informing your support team about your goals will enable them to help you, too.

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Treatment Tracker

If keeping track of your medicines is one of your hang-ups about starting treatment, there are tools that can help. Below is a downloadable PDF that may help you remember to take your medicines, note any side effects, record your viral load and CD4+ T-cell count, and keep your support team contact information close at hand.

Watch others share personal stories about support.

PARTNERING
WITH YOUR
healthcare
team

You found the right healthcare provider—now what? Get the most out of your healthcare team by communicating honestly and preparing for your appointments.

YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU

  • Be honest about your lifestyle, daily routine, and preferences. It will help your healthcare provider find a treatment that is right for you.
  • Always be open about any concerns you have about treatment or side effects.

Doctor Discussion Guide

CREATE YOUR GUIDE

Choose the questions you want to ask your healthcare provider. Then print a copy to bring to your next appointment.

Doctor Discussion Guide

Choose the questions you want to ask your healthcare provider. Then print a copy to bring to your next appointment.

Questions About Beginning HIV Treatment

When is the best time for me to begin HIV treatment?
If I begin HIV treatment, will there be any benefits?
If I begin HIV treatment, should I know about any risks?
Will I have to change my daily routine if I begin treatment for HIV?

General Questions About HIV Treatment

If I'm taking HIV meds, is there still a chance I can give HIV to somebody else?
Is it still possible to give HIV to others if I am undetectable?
Is there a cure for HIV?

Questions About Side Effects

How will my body be impacted by HIV treatment?
Will I experience side effects while taking HIV medicines?
What should I do if I get side effects?

Questions About Beginning HIV Treatment

When is the best time for me to begin HIV treatment?
If I begin HIV treatment, will there be any benefits?
If I begin HIV treatment, should I know about any risks?
Will I have to change my daily routine if I begin treatment for HIV?

General Questions About HIV Treatment

If I'm taking HIV meds, is there still a chance I can give HIV to somebody else?
Is it still possible to give HIV to others if I am undetectable?
Is there a cure for HIV?

Questions About Side Effects

How will my body be impacted by HIV treatment?
Will I experience side effects while taking HIV medicines?
What should I do if I get side effects?

View how others living with HIV feel about their healthcare provider.

JOIN US

Sign up for our e-mails to:

  • Learn more about HIV treatment
  • Get help on how to best partner with your healthcare provider
  • Find support to face your treatment hang-ups

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