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HIV Treatment: Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Nov 30, 2023

What is the treatment?

HIV is a condition when the body’s immune system is attacked by a virus. The virus once inside the immune system destroys the T- helper cell which is a kind of white blood cell. The virus multiples once inside the cells. T- helper cells are also called by the name of CD4 cells. A person’s immune system becomes weaker as the HIV virus continues to destroy the T-helper cells and in place make copies of its own self. Therefore, a person affected with the HIV virus and not receiving treatment will have a weak immune system and will be more prone to suffer from diseases and infections.

A person’s immune system can become severely damaged in 10-15 years time when HIV is left untreated. At this stage the body cannot defend itself any longer. The HIV virus spreads by either sexual contact or by injecting drugs from the needle that another has used or by using needles used by another person in general.

HIV is the name of the virus whereas having the symptoms of this virus is known as AIDS. The symptoms of AIDS cannot be seen in the early stages, these early symptoms are known as acute retroviral syndrome. The symptoms are diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, cramps, fever, skin rashes, sore throat, slow weight loss, muscle pain and growing lymph nodes. When HIV is left untreated the infection slowly spreads and the symptoms continue to come and go over a gap of months and years. A few later signs include shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing food, reduced appetite, genital herpes, night sweats, yeast infection in the mouth and a numbing feeling in the limbs. In the first 2 weeks to 6 months of being infected a HIV test run could result in negative as the HIV hasn’t yet made antibodies. Also, though you may have been tested negative you still stand the chance infecting other people during this ‘window’ period which is also called ‘seroconversion period’.

How is the treatment done?

By taking recourse to a HIV therapy you prevent the spread of the virus to other people. In the first 2 weeks to 6 months of being infected a HIV test run could result in negative as the HIV hasn’t yet made antibodies inside the immune system. Also, though you may have been tested negative you still stand the chance of infecting other people during this ‘window’ period which is also called ‘seroconversion period’.

The treatment for HIV includes taking medications that will slow down the progress of the virus in the body. The medications that are used in the treatment of HIV are known as antiretroviral drugs. These drugs are administered in combination with ARV’s and this combination is known as antiretroviral therapy or ART for short. These drugs reduce the virus from multiplying itself and destroying T-helper cells in place. The medications need to be taken once every day.

The category of anti-HIV medications comprise Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI’s), Nucleoside or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI’s), entry or fusion inhibitors, integrase inhibitors and protease inhibitors (PI’s).

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

Any person diagnosed with the HIV virus is eligible for treatment and should begin it at the earliest to prevent the spread of the virus. Also, those who are pregnant or are receiving treatment for hepatitis B or C should go for HIV therapy immediately.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

People who are allergic to certain medications or ingredients in particular should discuss with their healthcare provider before undergoing therapy. Also, those people who may be already suffering from severe diseases may respond to the therapy differently or not so positively as compared to another person.


Are there any side effects?

People who are undergoing antiretroviral therapy are prone to experience certain side effects from the medications such as dizziness, headache, skin rash, difficulty sleeping, dryness of mouth, fatigue, pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and nausea.

Not all people will experience the side effects. The effect of the side effects varies from person to person and should they become severe over time you should consult with your doctor before you decide to stop the HIV drugs or in case you miss a dose by mistake.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

There aren’t any post-treatment guidelines as such as the antiretroviral therapy is a life- long process. However, during the course of your therapy, ensure to take your medications timely. Also, maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle; try to quit the habit of smoking and drinking as both nicotine and alcohol can mix with the ingredients contained in the medication and cause adverse effects.

How long does it take to recover?

There is no time for recovery as such because the treatment for HIV is a life-long and continuous process.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The cost of HIV therapy treatment varies in India between Rupees 100 to Rupees 30, 000 where the cost of the Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) alone would amount to Rs. 30,000 in a year.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The results of the treatment are not permanent because there is no cure for HIV as of yet. But if the treatment is continued then the chances of spreading the virus to other people can be kept under check. Also, by continuing the treatment for the rest of your life would ensure the chances of a healthier life.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

There aren’t any alternative to HIV treatment. However, some people could opt for homeopathy.


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Written ByDr. Goma Bali Bajaj Diploma in geriatric,MBBS,MEM,Diploma In GeriatricGeneral Physician
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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