What meds are out there?
Types of Drug Treatments
I'm young - why should I take meds?
If I eat lots of fruits and veggies can I stay healthy without meds?
Are there side effects to the meds?
If the side effects get too much to handle - can I stop taking my meds?
I don't have enough to buy my meds!
How do I remember to take my meds?
What's the big deal about stopping and starting my meds when I want?
I heard I can die if I mix recreational drugs and my medication - is that true?
I heard there is a drug you can take to get rid of HIV, is this true?

Types of Drug Treatments

Antiviral therapy (also known as antiretroviral therapy)

Antiviral meds slow down the spread of HIV in your body by interfering with HIV’s ability to make copies of itself. If HIV can’t make copies of itself it dies off – but never completely! When there is not a lot of HIV in your blood, your immune system has a chance to repair itself.

The most common types of antiviral meds:

  • Reverse transcriptase inhibitors (RTIs): these include nucleoside reverse transcriptase (NRTIs) inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
  • Protease inhibitors (PIs)

There are also new classes of anti-HIV meds known as “entry inhibitors” and “integrase inhibitors”. There are lots of drug companies that make these drugs and they all work a little differently.

When your doctor prescribes you HIV meds you usually get a combination of different antiviral meds. This is called combination therapy or "a drug cocktail." But lots of people hate to call it a “cocktail” because it makes the drugs sound like fun --- and they’re definitely not!

A drug combination of these meds is often called HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy). HAART is a mix of at least three different types of antiviral meds. It can help reduce the amount of HIV in the body.

Pro's for taking HAART
Con's for taking HAART
HAART makes your viral load go very low (ideally to a point called “undetectable”). But, just because the virus can’t be detected in your blood, does not mean that there is no HIV virus in your body. It means that there is a low level in your blood as well as in other places in your body (your lymph nodes, your sperm etc.). Sometimes people get too many side effects from the meds or side effects that can make you feel very sick. If this happens, your doctor can try a different combination of meds. Sometimes people can also do things to help feel better like eating certain foods, taking natural medicines or exercising. [Check out the Complementary Therapy section for more information.]

Everyone is different, so try different ways to feel better when you are on your meds and find out what works best for you.

Hospital for Sick Children University of Toronto Positive Youth Outreach CATIE