In the mid 1990s, effective treatment for HIV infection became available in Australia. HIV is now a manageable infection. It no longer means a gradual progression to AIDS and then death. However, many people living with HIV still deal with a range of problems because of their HIV status.
HAART involves six classes of drugs. Each class fights the virus in a different way, blocking certain steps in virus reproduction.
Drugs often need to be taken at specific times of the day and night. Some must be taken with food, while others must be taken on an empty stomach.
Some therapies have side effects. Some are minor and pass reasonably quickly. Others can be more serious and debilitating. You should see your doctor regularly so side effects can be managed and treatments changed if needed.
It is important to take treatments on time, all the time. If you miss doses, HIV can start to multiply again, often creating a drug-resistant strain of the virus.
There are now strains of HIV that have developed a resistance to some of the drugs used in HAART therapy and there have been cases where this resistant virus has been transmitted, limiting the treatment options for those infected with it.
The decision on when to start treatment is yours. Your HIV specialist will discuss treatment guidelines with you.
Doctors used to think that putting people on high dosages of treatments soon after they were diagnosed, was the best way to fight HIV. Now, treatments are based on several factors. Current guidelines and information on tests and treatments can be found at the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) website.