Medicines for AIDS 517
Medicines for AIDS – Antiretroviral Therapy (ART)
(see also pages 291 and 292)
Certain medicines can help people with HIV live longer and healthier lives. Taken daily as
a combination of at least 3 medicines, this is called Antiretroviral Therapy, or ART.
HIV care and ART programs
HIV is a complicated disease that affects every part of your body. As soon as you
have a positive HIV test, try to find an HIV care program that can provide medicines to
prevent and treat HIV illnesses, counseling and other support. They can help you start
ART and manage any possible side effects. Getting drugs from an ART program is more
reliable and less costly than buying them from a private source.
When is ART needed?
People who test positive for HIV and show signs that their immune system is
becoming weak need ART. A blood test called a CD4 cell count can measure how well
the immune system is working. If your CD4 count is below 350, even if you feel healthy,
you should talk to your health worker about starting ART.
Before starting ART, it is important to discuss with your health worker:
• Have you ever taken any ART before? This may affect what medicines you should
• Do you have any illnesses or serious infections such as pneumonia? They may need
to be treated first.
• Do you know about the benefits, risks, and possible side effects of ART? Try to talk
to someone who is already using ART as well as your health worker.
• Are you able to take medicines every day, at the correct times? This is necessary for
ART to work.
• Is a steady supply of the medicines you need available?
• Have you told at least one person that you have HIV? She or he may be able to help
if something prevents you from getting or taking your medicines.
• Is there an HIV support group you can turn to for information and help?
Do not start taking ART on your own. They may be the wrong medicines for you and
can have serious side effects or cause drug resistance.
Do not share ART medicines with anyone. The medicines will not work if you take
less than the recommended dose.
Do not buy ART from someone who is not part of an approved HIV care or
IMPORTANT Once you start taking ART you must continue for the rest of your life, or the virus
will multiply in your body once again and you will become sick. If you do not take ART every day, at
the right time, resistance can develop and the drugs will no longer work for you or for others in your
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012