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The biopharmaceutical company Gilead makes a variety of anti-viral meds that prevent HIV from replicating in the human body. But, as they explain in the video above (recently shown at the Creating Change 2017 national conference on LGBTQ equality), these medications need to be taken daily or else HIV can proliferate in the body, potentially causing health issues. Thus, here’s five reasons why it’s important for HIV-positive people to stick to a daily anti-viral regimen:
1. It reduces the amount of HIV in the body
If HIV remains untreated, the amount of HIV in the body (i.e., the viral load) increases, gradually weakening a person’s immune system. However, daily treatment can significantly reduce a person’s viral load, even bringing it to a point of undetectability in blood tests; this is known as being “undetectable”. Lower viral loads can also reduce the damaging effect HIV has on the body, simultaneously decreasing the chances of transmitting HIV to other people through sex.
2. It helps protect sexual partners from new HIV infections
Being undetectable significantly lowers the chance of passing on HIV to sexual partners, something that’s called treatment as prevention (TAP). In fact, Gilead estimates that TAP can reduce the possibility of transmitting HIV by up to 90 percent, though they suggest using condoms, PrEP or other prevention methods to decrease the possibility of transmission even more.
3. It increases the number of CD4 cells in the body.
Reducing HIV in the body helps restore your immune system, namely the CD4 white blood cells which help fight off opportunistic infections. If you CD4 count gets too low, doctors diagnose you with AIDS. However, HIV treatment can gets a person out of the AIDS range, helping ensure that the body can fight off illnesses more effectively.
4. It promotes reduced inflammation
HIV and other viruses cause inflammation, a natural response that the body uses to fight off infections. However, since HIV cannot be cured, it remains in the body, causing non-stop inflammation, some of which can’t be seen or felt since it’s occurring internally. This non-stop inflammation places serious stress on a body—it can even lead to cancers and illnesses. So naturally, the lower a person’s viral load, the less inflammation they experience.
5. Avoid resistance
If you start an anti-viral medication and then stop, HIV can adapt to the reduced amounts of medicine in your bloodstream and become resistant to the same drug in future treatments, making it more difficult to treat HIV effectively. Some bodies may also be naturally resistant to certain anti-viral medications, making it very important to have regular blood work done so that your doctor can track your medication’s effectiveness and make changes if necessary.