HIV treatment | How do you treat HIV?

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HIV treatment | How do you treat HIV?

There is no cure for HIV, however, it can be effectively managed through medications that work to suppress and control the virus. 

HIV medicine is called antiretroviral therapy (ART), with proper HIV treatment, you can live a normal and happy life. In most cases, it takes six months for the treatment to effectively control the virus. 

Before we dive into HIV treatment, it’s important to outline phrases that will crop up within this article: 

CD4 cells also known as T cells, are white blood cells that fight infection and play an important role in your immune system. A CD4 count is used to check the health of the immune system in people infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). HIV attacks and destroys CD4 cells. 

Viral load refers to the volume of HIV in your blood. 

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) works to lower the volume of HIV or the “viral load” in the blood, and increase the volume of CD4 cell count. 

The aim of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is to keep the viral load very low, to the point where you become “undetectable”, this is known as “viral suppression.”

“Viral suppression” is defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood. If you are deemed as “durably undetectable”, it means that HIV have remained “undetectable” in the six months following your first undetectable result. If you are undetectable, it means that while you still have the virus you cannot pass it to another person.  

It is super important that no medications are missed, due to the fact that HIV could multiply rapidly and become resistant to the treatment, even if just a couple of medication rounds are missed. 

Once the viral load begins to decrease, it means that the treatment has been successful. The goal of HIV treatment is to continuously lower the viral load until it becomes undetectable. 

What is ART?

ART or antiretroviral therapy is the treatment for HIV. 

ART will differ for each person depending on their stage of HIV, it involves taking a combination of medications used to lower the viral load in the blood. ART therapy is sometimes also known as a HIV treatment regimen. 

If you are diagnosed with HIV, your doctor will be able to prescribe a treatment plan that is specific to your needs. While there is no cure for HIV, ART can effectively help to manage and cure the virus. 

ART-HIV-treatment

What is a CD4 count for a healthy person?

The CD4 count of a healthy person is 500 to 1,600 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (cells/mm3), according to HIV.gov.

As mentioned by CD4 cells are white blood cells that fight infection and play an important role in your immune system. CD4 cells send a message to the immune cells if there are external invaders such as bacteria or viruses. 

When there aren’t enough CD4 cells in the body, it becomes more difficult for the immune system to fight back against external invaders. 

A CD4 count is used to measure the volume of CD4 cells in your blood. If a CD4 count comes back at less than 200 cell/mm3, a person will be diagnosed with AIDs. 

The purpose of HIV treatment is to keep CD4 cells at a stable level. 

CD4-facts

Can HIV go away on its own?

HIV will not go away on its own. HIV, if left untreated will progress through acute to chronic infection. If there is no treatment during the first two stages of HIV, HIV will progress to AIDs. 

If HIV is diagnosed and treated in the early stages, treatment will lower the risk of HIV progressing to AIDs. 

Can HIV be cured in the early stages?

HIV cannot be cured in the early stages, however it can effectively be managed and controlled with the right HIV treatment (ART therapy). 

Can I test negative if my viral load is undetectable?

It is normal to still test positive for HIV when your viral load is undetectable. Don’t panic, this is normal and it doesn’t mean that your treatment isn’t working. 

Read: How does a HIV test work?

FAQs

How do I check my CD4 count?

A CD4 count can be checked using a blood test. This blood test is used to check the volume of CD4 cells in the body. 

CD4 count is often measured alongside HIV viral load, during the primary HIV testing stages. If you are diagnosed with HIV, CD4 counts will be taken on a regular basis to monitor your treatment. 

What food can increase CD4 count?

There are no foods that are proven to increase your CD4 count, however, a balanced and healthy diet is recommended as part of successful HIV treatment.  Some of the basic principles of healthy eating will help to support your immunity throughout your treatment plan such as

  • Including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes in your daily diet
  • Getting enough protein into your daily diet 
  • Including a balance of proteins, carbohydrates and a small volume of good fats in your diet
  • Limiting processed foods

Can you have HIV for a long time and not know it? 

It is possible to have HIV for a long time and not know it. In fact, some people can have HIV for years before they know that they have it. The symptoms of HIV may take years to develop in some cases, but this does not mean that the case is less serious. It is still possible to transmit HIV in the absence of symptoms, this is why it is so important to get tested, if you suspect that you have HIV. 

Written by Hannah Kingston on May 17, 2021

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