What is the treatment?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus attacks the immune system of a person and reduces his/her ability to fight against other infections and diseases. HIV mainly attacks the CD4 cells, also known as T cells. These cells play an instrumental role in strengthening one’s immune system. However, when under attack by the HIV, these cells get damaged. Thereby the person becomes susceptible to infections and diseases. If not treated on time, this virus can cause AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in a person.
This virus spreads rapidly inside the body by creating its copies. Therefore sooner the treatment starts, all the more beneficial it will be for the patient. With proper medication and treatment, a person can control the spread of the virus inside the body. As a result, he/she will be able to avoid the dire consequences. The medicines allow a person to live a normal and healthy life. If treated at the initial stages, a person with HIV can live a long and healthy life.
How is the treatment done?
Treatment is administered in the form of medicines (also known as HIV regimen) which can significantly reduce the symptoms. As of now, there is no permanent cure for HIV. However, with proper medication and treatment, a person can control the spread as well as the risk of transmitting the virus. It will thus allow him/her to live healthier and a longer time span.
Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), which consists of a combination of HIV medicines, is used to tackle the virus. The HIV medicines are classified into six groups depending on their intensity. These are:
These six drug categories include 25 HIV medicines that can be used to treat HIV. The medicines to be included in the HIV regimen vary from person to person depending on one’s health and the effectiveness of the medicine on him/her.
Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)
Any person infected with HIV is eligible for the ART treatment. If HIV is diagnosed in pregnant ladies, breastfeeding women, children under the age of 5 years, they should avail the treatment immediately. As per World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendations, one should start the treatment as early as possible post the diagnosis.
If you are suffering from high fever, sore throat, headaches, ulcers (in an esophagus, penis and/or anus), muscle and joint pain, nausea, and vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea, dry cough, weight loss for a considerable period of time, you should undergo an HIV test. The sooner you are diagnosed, the faster you can avail the treatment.
Who is not eligible for the treatment?
Various combination of HIV medicines are available as a part of the regimen. However, people who also suffer from other diseases may not respond well to some of the treatments. Therefore, a doctor needs to conduct various tests to measure the efficacy of the medicines before recommending it.
Are there any side effects?
HIV treatment causes several side effects which vary from person to person. While some suffer from mild, short-term side effects, other may suffer from long term, life threatening side effects.
Short terms side effects can be easily managed with a change in lifestyle and/or certain habits. A person usually recovers from these side effects within a few weeks. These effects may include fatigue, diarrhea, headaches, insomnia, rashes, loss of weight, etc.
Long term side effects can have life-threatening consequences at times. However, with proper medical guidance, one can manage these effects too. The common long-term side effects include fat redistribution, the increase in a level of cholesterol and/or triglyceride level, low bone density, increase in blood sugar level, etc.
What are the post-treatment guidelines?
There are several guidelines that a person should follow while undergoing the treatment. The most important guideline being consuming medicines (as prescribed) along with following a nutritious diet. The person should also maintain a hygienic lifestyle to prevent further infections. This includes practicing safe sex, quitting smoking and drug consumption. He/she should also indulge in moderate exercise after consulting with his/her doctor.
How long does it take to recover?
People suffering from HIV infection need to continue with the treatment lifelong. As there is no permanent cure, one has to consume the medicines for his/her entire life to keep the virus in check.
What is the price of the treatment in India?
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) that is used to treat HIV costs around Rs.30000 per year.
Are the results of the treatment permanent?
Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is a lifelong treatment. Since no permanent cure has been discovered, an HIV-infected person needs to continue with this treatment his/her entire life in order to control the spread of the virus and its consequences.
What are the alternatives to the treatment?
Alternative treatments do exist for HIV; however they also do not provide any permanent cure. Some of the alternatives include homeopathic medicines, Ayurveda as well as naturopathic medicine.