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.
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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 three months to measure HIV and CD4 cells in their blood. Doctors use medication to keep levels of CD4, the cells that fight infection, 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 viral load every three months. Even when a person’s viral load is undetectable, though, it doesn’t mean HIV infection is cured. The viral load can increase again if treatment is stopped or interrupted.
When antiretroviral therapy does not control the virus as well as expected, for example, if the medication is not taken consistently, there is a possibility that HIV can mutate, making it resistant to medication. When a person first receives an HIV diagnosis, doctors perform drug resistance testing in order to select the best treatment regimen for controlling the virus.
NYU Langone infectious disease specialists recommend that people 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 receiving a chronic illness diagnosis is upsetting. Our experts can connect you to the appropriate resources or specialists. These may include social workers, community support groups, and educational programs.
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