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Free to Be Aware - Early Diagnosis

CW21 WTTO Birmingham :: Community - Free to Be Aware - AIDS Alabama

GET TESTED- June 27 is National HIV Testing Day

HIV Medications: The Basics

Forget what you've heard about treatment for HIV. Current HIV treatment is a world away from what it was even two years ago. Important new medications and older, proved medications can now be taken less frequently with reduced side effects.

Nonetheless, choosing HIV medications and determining when to begin treatment are big decisions. Fortunately, newly infected people not on treatment typically can go 10 years without a single symptom. This means that when you test positive for HIV, depending on when you were infected and what your test results are, it's usually OK to wait to make an informed decision about using HIV medications.

But as soon as you test positive, the first thing you must do is find the most experienced HIV specialist you can. To do this, you can ask for referrals at an AIDS organization in your area.

To determine if you need to take HIV medications, your doctor will take at least two blood tests:
A VIRAL LAOD TEST to see how much HIV is in your bloodstream
A T-CELL TEST, also known as a CD4 count, which tests how strong your immune system is.

Based on both your T-cell test and viral load test results, you and your doctor will have a clear picture of how HIV has progressed in your body and when you should start taking HIV medications.

Generally, every three to six months you should visit your doctor for a checkup to find out if the HIV in your body is progressing. When you and your doctor decide your are ready to start taking HIV medications, there are some things you should think about.

Source: HIV Medications: When to Start and What to Take, 2006 edition.

Your T-cell count, also know as a CD4 count, reveals the number of T cells in your body. A T cell is a special kind of white blood cell, and the more you have, the stronger your immune system is. When you were infected with HIV, the virus entered into some of your T cells. When these HIV-infected T cells make more copies of themselves, they end up making more copies of HIV as well. HIV can also destroy T cells, as well as other surrounding cells. After living with HIV for a while (if you don't take medications) the number of T cells you have will usually go down. this is a sign that your immune system is being weakened. The lower your T-cell count, the more you risk getting sick. A normal T-cell count for someone without HIV is usually between 500 and 1,600.


Treatment is not recommended unless your viral load is 100,000 or higher, or you have serious symptoms.

Treatment should be seriously considered.

To avoid dangerous illness, start treatment.

Source: HIV Medications: When to Start and What to Take, 2006 edition.


If you are HIV positive, your relationship with your doctor is very important.

You and Your Doctor are a Team
Together you will make important choices about your treatment. As a patient, it is your right and your responsibility to take an active role in the decisions that will affect your life. After all, you are the one living with HIV. Keeping a healthcare journal is also a valuable tool that will help you and your doctor manage your HIV.

Ask Questions
To prepare for your visits to the doctor, make a list of questions/concerns to bring with you. Take notes during your visit and/or bring a friend or family member to help you make sense of it all.

And remember, there is no such thing as a wrong question. Feel free to ask your doctor anything. They are used to hearing anything and everything from their patients, including questions regarding alcohol and drug use, financial worries and relationship problems. All of these can affect the state of your health. It’s better to ask. The more you know, the better able you are to manage your HIV.

Keep your follow-up appointments
Staying healthy requires staying on your med's and continuing to see your doctor for check-ups and test results. It is the only way for you and your doctor to find the treatment that is right for you.


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