HIV has changed

Treatments are now highly effective. A person with HIV who takes their medication regularly will not develop AIDS or experience significant damage to their immune system. A person diagnosed in a timely fashion in their 20s can expect to have a normal life expectancy.

Treatments are easy to take. Early HIV treatments had a difficult pill burden and presented major side effects. Since the mid-2000s, most patients are taking a combination of medications in a single pill with minimal or no side effects. Patients may experience some mild side effects when starting treatment, but anything ongoing can be resolved by changing to a different drug combination.

Treatment is prevention. The new scientific consensus, based on rigorous experimental studies, is that a person on effective treatment with suppressed viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV. This is regardless of the type of sex, whether any STIs are present, and whether condoms or PrEP are also used.

Early treatment is essential. As soon as a person with HIV achieves suppressed viral load, their chances of passing on the virus are eliminated. This is known in the positive community as ‘undetectable = untransmittable’ (U=U). Effective treatment also protects the health of the person with HIV by reducing the systemic inflammation that is caused by HIV infection.

A meaningful life. The message here is ‘your life is not over.’ With early and effective treatment, a person with HIV can have a fulfilling and meaningful life. This includes:

  • having sex and relationships without fear of transmission
  • having children or donating eggs or sperm
  • continuing or returning to work and study