With treatment, HIV is a manageable, long-term condition that allows people to live active, healthy lives.
The medications used to treat HIV are called anti-retrovirals. They are usually in the form of three drugs, each requiring the patient to take one to two daily tablets.
Treatment works by preventing the virus from multiplying and by actually reducing the levels of HIV in the blood. While treatment cannot cure HIV, it can reduce the viral load to the point where it cannot be detected in tests.
There is now consensus that a person living with HIV, on treatment and with undetectable levels of the virus in their blood for at least six months has virtually zero risk of transmitting HIV to sexual partners. We have added our support to the Undetectable=Untransmittable campaign to reinforce this message.
It is important that anti-retrovirals are taken when prescribed, as even missing a few doses per month means that treatment won’t work as well as it should.
While there are side effects, as there are with any medication, in the majority of cases, the more severe impacts once associated with HIV medications are no longer a problem thanks to medical advances. Most other side effects, such as headaches and nausea, often subside over time. Nevertheless, patients must work closely with their doctors to find the right combination of medications for them, as everyone responds slightly differently to the treatments.
In Scotland all anti-retroviral treatment is covered by the NHS.