Standard ARV treatment consists of a combination of drugs which together suppress the virus to undetectable levels and stop the progression of an HIV infection.
A person will not immediately become undetectable when they start taking treatment. It may take up to 6 months or more before the viral load reduces, so it is vital to start treatment as soon as possible.
Today, more than 40 ARV drugs are approved to treat HIV. Most people on treatment will take two or more of these drugs each day for the rest of their lives.
HOW IT WORKS
ARV treatment prevents HIV from making copies of itself, which reduces the amount of HIV in the body (also called viral load).
Having less HIV in the body gives the immune system a chance to recover. By reducing the amount of HIV in the body, a person can live a long and healthy life.
ARV treatment does not cure HIV. If a person stops taking their treatment, HIV will start making copies of itself again, which increases the amount of HIV in the body. Having more HIV in the body weakens the immune system. If HIV is not controlled by treatment, eventually the immune system is severely weakened and the body becomes unable to fight off serious infections and diseases, which can cause death.
The main goal of ARV treatment is to reduce a person’s viral load to an undetectable level. An undetectable viral load means that the level of HIV in the blood and body fluids is too low to be detected by tests. People living with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load, stay healthy for longer and have zero risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partner through sex.