While there is not a cure for HIV, it is treatable, especially when caught during the acute phase of the infection. When researchers first discovered HIV, the retrovirus that causes AIDS, there were very few drugs available to treat the illness. Due to modern medical advances, there are now more than 30 antiretroviral (ARV) drugs available to manage the disease and being diagnosed with HIV is no longer at all considered a death sentence. Doctors use a combination of five classes of drugs known as antiretroviral medications to slow the advancement of HIV and allow those diagnosed with the disease to live longer, healthier lives. This method of treatment is referred to antiretroviral therapy or ART.
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HIV treatment involves taking a regimen of antiretroviral medications to slow the advancement of the illness and minimizes the damage to the body's immune system. Most people diagnosed with HIV start treatment immediately, allowing them to control the potential effects of the disease and extend their quality of life for as long as possible. The sooner treatment is started, the sooner an HIV-positive individual can start to help lower their viral load. Viral load is the amount of the virus in the blood and body fluids. ART, when taken consistently and correctly, can significantly reduce your chance of transmitting HIV to your partner.
A new preventative method called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PReP), is available for people who do not have HIV, but are at high risk for contracting the virus-- whether due to their sexual activities or intravenous drug use.
Medically Reviewed by J. Frank Martin JR., MD on Jun 18, 2019
Written by Nick Corlis on Mar 18, 2018