When to start treatment for HIV?

The best advice is to start taking the medications immediately, regardless of how strong your immune system is. That will offer you the best chances of living a healthy life with HIV. Were you only very recently infected with HIV (fewer than eight weeks ago)? In that case, starting treatment in this initial phase of your infection offers you a golden opportunity to keep your immune system nearly 100% intact. Do you want to start the treatment immediately because you want to significantly reduce your chances of passing on your HIV to others? In principle, your doctor may not refuse you.

Starting immediately with treatment for HIV

The best advice is to start taking the medications immediately, regardless of how strong your immune system is. Starting treatment immediately offers you the best chances of living a healthy life with HIV. But treatment also has another major advantage: there will be hardly any chance of your transmitting your HIV to others.  If your CD4 cell count gets down 500 or less, which means your immune system is severely weakened, your doctor will urgently advise you not to postpone treatment any longer. 

Are you worried about possible side-effects?

  • These days, HIV medications have fewer and fewer side-effects.
  • If there are any side-effects, they will usually disappear quickly.
  • If they don't go away, you can always switch medications. Consult with your HIV internist or HIV nurse about this.

Treatment of an acute HIV infection

An acute infection is the very first phase of an infection with HIV. If you were only very recently infected (less than eight weeks ago), don't wait any longer: get treated immediately! Early treatment offers you a golden opportunity to keep your immune system more or less completely intact. By treating an acute infection, you will have the very best chances of living a long and healthy life with HIV.

Right to treatment

If you would like to start getting treated immediately, you have a right to do that. Even if your CD4 cell count is higher than 500 per mm3 of blood. In principle, your doctor may not refuse you. The doctor could advise against treatment if he or she thinks you are not ready to commit to taking HIV medications every day.

 Reasons for wanting to start right away:

  • You want to limit the damage that HIV could cause to your body as much as possible.
  • You want to protect your sex partners as much as possible. The treatment with HIV medications will practically eliminate your chances of transmitting your HIV to others.

How will HIV treatment affect your liver and kidneys?

You might wonder what HIV medications could do to your organs in the long term. If medications are too hard on your liver and kidneys, your HIV internist will propose that you choose a different combination. Your liver and kidney function will be closely monitored through regular blood tests.  

Some HIV medications have been taken by men for 10 to 15 years already. They haven't experienced any problems from them. Often you can drink alcohol or use drugs moderately without any problems, too.

When you are ready

You will only manage to take your medications at the same time every day if you feel truly ready to start. It is better to wait a bit longer until you feel ready than to rush into it and make a false start. It's important to have a doctor and an HIV nurse with whom you feel a click and whom you can talk to openly. If that is not the case, it would be better for you to look for a new doctor or HIV nurse.

  • Not sure if you are ready to start treatment? The Servicepunt (service point) of Hiv Vereniging Nederland (HVN) can offer you support in that regard. Or you can request to talk (either on the telephone or face to face) with other people who are HIV positive, through the Marieke Bevelanderhuis.
  • You can find more information about treatment on the site of Hiv Vereniging Nederland.
  • Have you just found out that you have HIV? On www.4mezelf.nl you can find support and advice (in Dutch), also with regard to treatment.

 

Get tested online

Your personalised advice

Preventing Hepatitis B

Did you find the info you were looking for?

We will improve this page with your feedback.

Is the information easy to understand?

We will improve this page with your feedback.

Do you find the content appealing?

We will improve this page with your feedback.