There was a time not too long ago when an HIV positive diagnosis was seen as an instant death sentence. While there is still some stigma surrounding the disease but it’s important to know that living a long, full, healthy life after an HIV diagnosis is absolutely possible.
The HIV virus, like all other viruses, works by invading the cells of your body and forcing those cells to make copies of the virus. Those new copies then go out and force other cells to create more copies and so on. In the past, this kept your body so busy that it was unable to fight off other infections that were able to creep in. You may or may not know it, but the HIV or AIDS virus itself was never fatal. Terminal patients would normally pass away due to other infections that the body just could not fight off. In the past, a patient with full blown AIDS could find that the common cold had the potential to be fatal.
Thankfully, that is no longer the reality of life with HIV or AIDS. There are several treatments available now that can help people with HIV to achieve and maintain a healthier life. As a result, many people with HIV are living much longer and healthier lives than before.
Currently, there are medications readily available that can slow the growth of the virus and even some that can remove the virus’s ability to replicate itself. These drugs don’t eliminate the virus from the body; rather they keep the levels of the virus very low in the blood. In some cases, the medications may even be so effective that they can reduce the levels to the point that they are undetectable using an HIV test.
The most effective way to combat the virus is to use an array of medicines. Each medication is designed to attack the virus in a different way. Some people use the analogy of different branches of the military all fighting a common enemy. The army attacks in one way, the navy in another, and the marines in another. Other people like to think of it the way football is played. You have an offensive line, a defensive line and special teams.
Most people who are in treatment for HIV take a minimum of three different medications. Combination therapy of this type is the most effective treatment for HIV. You may hear people refer to the treatments as “the cocktail”, ART (anti-retroviral therapy) or HAART (highly active anti-retroviral therapy). It will be between you and your doctor(s) to determine when you should start treatment and what particular medications will be best suited to your individual needs.
Once you are on medications, it is imperative that you continue to work with all of your health care providers to monitor your levels as well as the quality of your lifestyle. It is important not only that your levels are as low as possible, but also that you feel well. It is not uncommon for a patient to need to cycle through a few different medications until they find the right combination and dosages for them. It is also not uncommon that those medications need to be changed from time to time.
Associates MD is experienced compassionate and determined to ensure not only that there are years left in your life, but that there is life left in your years. Contact us to make an appointment for a consultation with one of our physicians.