Anonymous on November 10, 2011

What is the treatment for HIV?

My friend is getting tested for HIV. If he has it, what’s the treatment?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on November 10, 2011

That’s an excellent question. And by the way, I applaud your friend for getting an HIV screening. Not only is getting tested a good idea, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend HIV screening for everyone between the ages of 13 and 64.

So, what is the treatment for HIV? The most effective type of HIV treatment is called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). HAART is a combination of drugs that suppress the virus, stop the virus from replicating, and slow the progression of disease.      

The good news is, when people with HIV follow treatment instructions from their doctors ⎼ which means beginning HAART at the correct time and also continuing to take the medication every day ⎼ the virus can be well controlled. In fact, the virus can ideally be reduced through HAART  so much that the virus is no longer detectable in the blood.

However, keep in mind that even the most successful treatment does not result in a cure for HIV. Still, achieving an undetectable viral load with HAART helps an HIV-positive person live longer and with a higher quality of life. It also means that there’s a lower chance of developing AIDS later on.

What should your friend do if he has a positive HIV test result? The most important step after a positive HIV test result is to talk with a doctor about treatment. (Remember, if your friend tested with us, a doctor consultation is included for positive results.) 

This is an important topic and I thank you for bringing it up. If you have additional questions, you can learn more about HAART in our Expert Guide to HIV.

Related info: 

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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