Understanding how HIV treatment works

Understanding how HIV treatment works

HIV treatment can seem quite complicated, but that’s not the case. Find out more about the treatment of HIV and how it will impact your life. 

Young man with a PrEP pill stock photo
iStock - Closeup of a young caucasian man with a simulated PrEP pill in his hand

HIV is a major problem in South Africa and the world at large. According to the Department of Health’s National HIV Testing Services Policy 2016, South Africa has a generalised and maturing HIV epidemic, with the highest number of people (6.4 million) living with HIV in the world.

If you have HIV, you need to manage it by using medication. Our guest explains the experience of living with HIV and what you need to know about the medication. We hope that their story will encourage you to take the next step.

For more information on testing, please visit http://www.kznhealth.gov.za/testing.htm.

Hi, it’s me again.

The last time you were still thinking about whether to start the HIV treatment after you tested positive. I hope you made the right decision and have already started on the treatment? Great job!

Now, you must be wondering what the nurse or doctor will do now? Don’t stress. After testing positive for HIV, your first visit with a healthcare provider will include a review of your health and medical history, a physical exam, and several lab tests. The healthcare provider also explains the benefits of HIV treatment and discusses ways to reduce the risk of passing HIV to others. The information collected during this visit is used to make decisions about HIV medicines.

A nurse, doctor or the clinic will also review your lab test results to:

·       Determine how far your HIV infection has advanced (called HIV progression), and 

·       Decide which HIV medicines to recommend

Results from the following two important lab tests help answer these questions.

CD4 count

A CD4 count measures the number of CD4 cells in a sample of blood. Treatment with HIV medicines prevents HIV from destroying CD4 cells.  

Viral load

A viral load test measures how much of the virus is in the blood (HIV viral load).

A goal of HIV treatment is to keep a person’s viral load so low that the virus can’t be detected by a viral load test. This is known as having an undetectable viral load.

Once these have been reviewed and you have agreed to start with HIV treatment, the CD4 count and viral load are used to monitor whether the HIV medicines are controlling your HIV. It is important to tell the nurse, or doctor everything so they can help you through this life-long journey.

Well, let me allow you to think about this and hope you’ll listen again next time.

Remember: Starting and staying on HIV treatment can lead to a normal and healthy life. 

This health feature is brought to you by the KZN Health Department.

For more information on HIV/Aids and the KZN Health Department, visit http://www.kznhealth.gov.za/hivandaids.htm.

Main image courtesy of iStock

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