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HIV: 5 reasons to stick with treatment
The benefits of continuing treatment
If you’re living with HIV, you may wonder: why start HIV treatment as soon as possible? And what does treatment actually do for me?
Actually? A lot. Many treatment options are available, and most are made up of three different medicines which can even be in a single pill. Together, they can fight HIV in more than one way. Plus, taking HIV treatment every day helps make sure there is always enough medicine in your body to fight the virus, and that helps make it possible to live a longer and healthier life.
Now, here are five reasons to stick with treatment. It all starts here, with the most important reason of all: less virus in your body. Left untreated, the amount of HIV in your body, your viral load, goes up. Taking HIV treatment helps bring it down and sticking with HIV treatment helps keep it down. It can get so low, it can’t be measured by a test. That’s undetectable. You still have HIV, but there’s a lot less of it causing damage in your body. And a lower viral load means a lower chance of developing certain infections, some cancers, and AIDS.
And when you’re undetectable, that brings us to number two: protect your partners. Taking HIV treatment every day means you can get to and stay undetectable, and that prevents the spread of HIV through sex according to current research. It’s called treatment as prevention but think of it as treat to prevent. It’s a big deal, but HIV is still in your body, and being undetectable doesn’t prevent other sexually transmitted infections—so be safe and use condoms.
Now on to number three: more CD4 cells. Taking HIV treatment as prescribed helps restore your body’s defense network, your immune system. Inside your body are CD4 cells, the cells that defend against germs. But HIV invades CD4 cells, it takes over and uses them to make more HIV. Pretty soon, there’s lots of HIV and not enough CD4 cells. HIV treatment helps keep this from happening. It raises the number of CD4 cells, so you have more of them to defend against things that can make you sick.
Sound good so far? Well, here’s number four: less virus can mean less inflammation. Now, inflammation is something you can’t always see, but it’s part of your body’s normal healing process. It’s usually short term, and typically it’s a good thing. But here’s what it means when you’re living with HIV: because the body is always in your body it can cause long-term inflammation if left untreated, and that’s a bad thing. It puts constant stress on your immune system, and it can lead to serious diseases and cancers. But taking treatment can help lower your viral load, and that helps reduce inflammation.
Which brings us to number five: avoid resistance. Because a durable HIV treatment helps keep the virus from getting sneaky. See, if you’re not taking a treatment that’s right for you or if you don’t take your treatment every day, the level of medicine in your body may not be enough to keep HIV from changing. It can become resistant to your treatment, which means your treatment may not work as well to fight HIV, and resistance can make HIV harder to treat now and in the future. But, if your treatment is ready to fight back, and you take it exactly as your healthcare provider says, it helps keep your treatment working the way it should.
So, there you have it, five really important things that taking an effective treatment does for you. Remember, there is no cure for HIV, but sticking with treatment means that you’re protecting your health, and it helps make it possible to live a longer and healthier life. Questions? Talk to a healthcare provider. Plus, you can get more information and watch more videos at HelpStopTheVirus.com and on YouTube. So stick with treatment, and help stop the virus.