Four questions you ask yourself before antiretroviral treatment
HIV infection without any treatment leads, in a high percentage, to death. However, today there is no doubt that antiretroviral treatment saves lives and allows people with HIV to have a quality and life expectancy very similar to that of the general population.
Even knowing all this, for some people it is difficult to assimilate the diagnosis of HIV and start the process of medical care, whose main pillar is, precisely, antiretroviral treatment.
If you find yourself in this situation and you still haven’t decided to start the medication, it may be that your doubts have a simpler solution than you imagine. The TheBody.com portal, specialized in HIV issues, raises some questions that you are probably asking yourself about starting your antiretroviral treatment.
At what point should a person start antiretroviral treatment?
Medical experience indicates that a person should start their treatment as soon as possible after being diagnosed with HIV. Going a little further, it can be said that the less time has elapsed between the moment of infection and the start of treatment, the better it will be for your long-term health.
Remember, HIV drugs have proven to be very effective in different ways of fighting the virus, such as:
– stop the replication of the virus in the body
– Avoid transmission of HIV to sexual partners
– Prevent someone with HIV from developing AIDS
– Lower the risk of long-term health problems caused by HIV, such as cancer and heart problems
Could it be too soon to start treatment?
To put it simply: no.
Years ago, drugs against the virus were less effective and more toxic, so it was preferred to wait longer and thus provide them for a short time. Some 15 years ago, treatment was still recommended only when a person’s immune system had dropped below a certain level, in order to reduce potential risks, as well as the cumbersome need to swallow numerous pills each day. At that time, health personnel had to find a balance between the risk of taking existing treatments and the risk of not treating the infection.
However, today’s medications are significantly safer and more effective, as well as being very easy to take. Usually, a single pill a day is required, without food specifications or timing of the dose. For this reason, current recommendations indicate that treatment should be started immediately, even on the day of diagnosis, if possible.
Is there a time when it is too late to start treatment?
Fortunately, no. However, the longer a person waits to start their medications, the greater the risk that they will develop long-term health problems as a result of HIV. It is also known that the stronger a person’s immune system is when they start taking antiretroviral, the less likely they are to develop complications in the future.
Even so, current antiretroviral are so powerful that they can help a person with a severely impaired immune system to recover. So it’s never too late to start, just like it’s never too late to quit smoking or exercise, but the sooner the better.
What if I’m not ready to start treatment?
This is normal and okay. The next step is to seek help to be able to talk about your fears. Sharing your feelings with your medical team or with a mutual support group where you meet other people living with HIV will help put things in perspective. Fortunately, today the Internet connects us with people we would not otherwise know; you can look for those who talk about their life with HIV on social media.
The truth is that the amount of evidence that starting treatment has many benefits is very large. But it is also true that it is a personal decision that must be very conscious, as it is a commitment to your own health.
Remember that you are not alone on the journey of living with HIV. In spaces like AHF Latin America and the Caribbean you can find information and support to start your treatment and stick to it as well as possible. Look for our offices in your country and find out about our services.