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The most effective treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy (ART). This is a combination of several medicines that aims to control the amount of virus in your body. Antiretroviral medicines slow the rate at which the virus grows. Taking these medicines can reduce the amount of virus in your body and help you stay healthy.
After you start treatment, it's important to take your medicines exactly as your doctor tells you. When treatment doesn't work, it is often because HIV has become resistant to the medicine. This can happen if you don't take your medicines correctly.
Other steps you can take include the following:
Keep your immune system strong by eating right, quitting smoking, and learning how to avoid infection.
Monitor your CD4+ (white blood cells) counts to check the effect of the virus on your immune system.
See a counselor to help you handle the strong emotions and stress that can follow an HIV diagnosis.
Reduce stress so that you can better manage the HIV illness.
Medical experts recommend that people begin treatment for HIV as soon as they know that they are infected. Treatment is especially important for pregnant women, people who have other infections (such as tuberculosis or hepatitis), and people who have symptoms of AIDS.
Research suggests that treatment of early HIV with antiretroviral medicines has long-term benefits, such as a stronger immune system.
But you may decide not to get treated at first. If you put off treatment, you will still need regular checkups to measure the amount of HIV in your blood and check how well your immune system is working.
You may want to start HIV treatment if your sex partner doesn't have HIV. Treatment of your HIV infection can help prevent the spread of HIV to your sex partner.
Treatment to prevent HIV infection
Health care workers who are at risk for HIV because of an accidental stick with a needle or other exposure to body fluids should get medicine to prevent infection.
Also, medicine may prevent HIV infection in a person who has been raped or was accidentally exposed to the body fluids of a person who may have HIV. This type of treatment is usually started within 72 hours of the exposure.
And studies have shown that if you are not infected with HIV, taking antiretroviral medicines can protect you against HIV., , But to keep your risk low, you still need to use safer sex practices.
Other treatments for HIV
Some people with HIV may use complementary medicine to help with fatigue and weight loss caused by HIV infection and to reduce the side effects caused by antiretroviral therapy (ART). Talk to your doctor before using them. Some complementary therapies for other problems may actually be harmful. For example, St. John's wort decreases the effectiveness of certain prescription medicines for HIV. But medical marijuana has been shown to stimulate the appetite and relieve nausea. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in trying it, or any complementary medicine.
Treatment for AIDS
If HIV progresses to a late stage, treatment will be started or continued to keep your immune system as healthy as possible.
If you get any diseases that point to AIDS, such as Pneumocystis pneumonia or Kaposi's sarcoma, your doctor will treat them.
Living with HIV
Learning how to live with HIV infection may keep your immune system strong. It can also help prevent the spread of HIV to others.
Learn more about HIV to actively share in health care decisions.
Join a support group to share information and emotions relating to HIV.
Practice safer sex. Use condoms whenever you have sex.
Learn how to handle food safely so you don't get a food-borne infection.
Eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, don't smoke, and don't use illegal drugs.
Get immunizations as needed.
If your partner has HIV:
Provide emotional support. Don't be afraid to discuss the disease. Often people with HIV need to talk.
Protect yourself against HIV infection and other infections by not sharing needles or having unprotected sex.
Protect your partner with HIV from other infections by staying away from him or her when you are sick.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.