Anonymous on November 11, 2011

What are the treatments for HIV?

How is HIV treated these days? I’ve heard it’s a lot different than it used to be. What are the treatments for HIV?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on November 11, 2011

Thanks for your question.

You're right...HIV treatment has come a long way in just the last 10 years. Now people with HIV can take fewer medications with fewer side effects to manage their HIV infection. And what’s more, the treatments are even more effective at reducing the damage HIV can do to the body.

Today the type of treatment that doctors recommend is called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). This is usually a combination of several medications that do different things in the body to halt HIV. Using a combination of drugs helps reduce the risk that HIV could become resistant to one type of medication.

A number of HIV medications are available...some of them keep the virus from entering the body’s T-cells and other stop the virus from replicating. Because there are so many combinations of medications available, HIV specialists help people determine what works best.

Luckily, treatment does a great job at curbing the damage HIV can do in the body. Sometimes being on treatment even allows the body to repair some of the damage HIV has already done. But keep in mind that even with the best treatment, HIV can’t be cured, so prevention is always the best option.

Bottom line? If you or someone you know has HIV, talking to a doctor is the first step in treatment and health. Remember, if you get HIV testing through our services, a doctor’s consultation is included for positive results.

If you have more questions about HIV treatment or testing, I encourage you to visit our Expert Guide to HIV. Thanks for your question and I wish you the best of health.

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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