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How do you treat HIV and AIDS?

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United Kingdom and United States treatment guidelines say that the aim of HIV treatment should be to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, below 50 copies/ml .. this being the cut off point for the ultra-sensitive viral load test.
Standard treatment for achieving this goal is for the patient to be given combinations of three or four different anti-retroviral drugs (also known as triple therapy, quadruple therapy, combination therapy or Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy).
None of these drugs can actually eliminate HIV, but they can suppress it to such low levels that it lets the immune system recover and get stronger by itself.
In addition to medications, patients are regularly monitored to assess:
  1. the amount of HIV in their blood (viral load testing)
  2. the strength of their immune system (CD4 testing)

Even if a patient starts treatment when they have already developed AIDS, it is possible for them to regain enough of their immune system that they can recover from many, if not all, AIDS-defining illnesses.
Although modern drugs are much easier to take and far less debilitating than they were before, drug regimens can be challenging and require a great deal of dedication to taking the treatment at the right time and in the right way.
Combination therapy using at least three drugs has now been used for over ten years - with many of the individual drugs having been used / studied for even longer.
The length of time that any given combination of drugs will remain effective depends very much on not developing resistance to any of the drugs - which in turn relies on a good adherence and keeping the viral load suppressed to undetectable levels.


NOTE: There is currently a vigorous and healthy debate about when it is best to start treatment. Current guidelines are based on the fact that some of the treatments were - in the past - potentially quite unpleasant, debilitating and lifestyle limiting; but this is no longer the case and the body of medical opinion now seems to be swinging to a position of supporting commencement of treatment whilst the patient's immune function is still substantially intact.

There is no cure for AIDS, but there are medications/drugs to treat it. AIDS will not disappear from your system, but it can be helped.
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