Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, are chronic, lifelong conditions requiring continuous medical attention. NYU Langone doctors care for you throughout your life, managing your medications and helping to prevent complications of the disease.
Most people with HIV infection use a combination of medications, called antiretroviral therapy, to keep the virus in check for the rest of their lives.
People on antiretroviral therapy visit their doctor every few months for regular checkups. They’re also monitored for mild to serious side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or skin rashes. Doctors also watch for complications of the disease, including cytomegalovirus disease, nontuberculous mycobacterial infections, anemia, or cancer.
Regular visits are important to assess the effect of HIV on the body. Most people with HIV infection have a blood test every two to three months to measure the amount of infection-fighting CD4 cells in their blood. Doctors use medication to keep CD4 levels as high as possible and to suppress the amount of virus in the blood, so that it can’t be detected.
After virus levels can no longer be detected, NYU Langone infectious disease specialists perform blood tests to check CD4 counts every three months. Even when a person’s viral load is undetectable, though, it doesn’t mean HIV infection is cured. People can still transmit the virus to others.
When antiretroviral therapy does not control the virus as well as expected, there is a possibility that HIV can mutate, making it resistant to medication. Doctors regularly perform drug resistance testing using blood tests to check for HIV mutations. These tests can help your doctor create an effective treatment plan.
NYU Langone infectious disease specialists recommend that people diagnosed with HIV infection begin treatment as soon as possible to avoid complications of the condition. Early treatment also helps prevent the infection from spreading.
NYU Langone physicians understand that being diagnosed with a chronic illness is upsetting. Our experts can connect people who are newly diagnosed with HIV infection or AIDS to the appropriate resources or specialists. These may include social workers, community support groups, and educational programs.