How to be treated for HIV

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Treatment for HIV infection is done through antiretroviral drugs that prevent the virus from multiplying in the body, helping to fight the disease and strengthen the immune system, despite not being able to eliminate the virus from the body. These medicines are provided free of charge by the SUS (Sistema Único de Saúde) regardless of the viral load that the person has, and it is only necessary that the collection of the medicine is made with the medical prescription.

There are already many studies with the aim of finding a cure for HIV infection, however there are still no conclusive results. However, it is important to follow the indicated treatment so that it is possible to reduce the viral load and increase the person’s quality of life, as well as reducing the risk of developing diseases that are often related to AIDS, tuberculosis, pneumonia and cryptosporidiosis.

When to start HIV/AIDS treatment

The treatment of HIV infection should be started as soon as the diagnosis is established, which is done through tests that must be recommended by the general practitioner, infectious disease specialist, urologist, in the case of men, or gynecologist, in the case of women. These tests can be ordered along with other routine tests or as a way to check for infection with the virus after risky behavior, which is sexual intercourse without a condom. See how HIV infection is diagnosed.

Treatment for HIV should be started immediately in pregnant women or when the person has a viral load greater than 100,000/ml or a CD4 T lymphocyte rate less than 500/mm³ of blood in the blood test. Thus, it is possible to control the rate of viral replication and decrease the symptoms and complications of the disease.

If antiretroviral treatment is started when the patient is at a more advanced stage of the disease, it is possible that there is an inflammation called Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome (IRS), however, even in these situations, the therapy must be maintained and the doctor can evaluate the use of Prednisone for a week or two to help control inflammation.

How is the treatment done?

The treatment of AIDS is done with the use of antiretroviral drugs offered by the SUS that are capable of preventing the multiplication of the HIV virus and, thus, preventing the weakening of the human body. In addition, when the treatment is done correctly, there is an improvement in the patient’s quality of life and a decrease in the chance of developing some diseases that can be related to AIDS, such as tuberculosis, cryptosporidiosis, aspergillosis, skin diseases and heart problems.

The SUS also makes HIV testing available free of charge so that the viral load can be monitored periodically so that it can be verified whether the patient is responding well to treatment. It is recommended that HIV tests be performed at least 3 times a year, so that it is possible to adjust the treatment, if necessary, avoiding possible complications.

Drugs used to treat AIDS can act by preventing the virus from replicating, entering the virus into the human cell, integrating the genetic material of the virus and the person, and producing new copies of the virus. Usually, the doctor recommends a combination of drugs that may vary according to the viral load, the person’s general health and professional activity, due to the side effects. The antiretrovirals generally indicated are:

  • Lamivudine;
  • tenofovir;
  • Efavirenz;
  • Ritonavir;
  • nevirapine;
  • Enfuvirtide;
  • Zidovudine;
  • darunavir;
  • Raltegravir.

The drugs Stavudine and Indinavir used to be indicated to treat AIDS, however their marketing was suspended due to the large number of adverse and toxic effects on the body. Most of the time, treatment is carried out with at least three drugs, but it can vary according to the patient’s general health status and viral load. In addition, treatment during pregnancy may vary, as some medications can cause malformations in the baby.

Main side effects

Due to the large amount of medication, AIDS treatment can result in some side effects such as nausea, vomiting, malaise, loss of appetite, headache, skin changes and loss of fat throughout the body.

These symptoms are more common at the beginning of treatment and tend to disappear over time. However, whenever they appear, you should inform the doctor, as it is possible to reduce their intensity by exchanging the drug for another or adjusting its dose.

The cocktail must always be taken in the right dose and at the right time every day to prevent the virus from getting even stronger, facilitating the emergence of other diseases. Food is also very important in the treatment of AIDS because it prevents chronic diseases, strengthens the immune system and even helps to combat the side effects of antiretroviral therapy. See what to eat to help treat AIDS.

When to go back to the doctor

After the first week of treatment, the patient should return to the doctor to check for drug reactions, and after this visit, he should return to the doctor once a month. When the disease has stabilized, the patient should return to the doctor every 6 months, performing exams every six months or every year, depending on their health status.

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