Positive Life NSW Blog

HIV treatment is no longer a bitter pill to swallow

Posted by on in Advocacy and Policy

IMAGE: An open bottle of medication lays on its side with some pills. A bedside clock is in the background.

I first started taking HIV treatment in late in 1995.

There were lots of pills taken twice a day - some needing refrigeration which meant I couldn't travel - and hideous side-effects like voluminous qualities of unexpected diarrhoea that required constant dosing with medications to stem the flow. Oh how times have changed.

Now I take four small pills before I go to sleep each night and there are no side-effects. But then, the treatments are much better and we now know much more about their benefits than back then. Like the health benefits and then there are the benefits in reducing HIV transmission to others. But it's the health benefit that I want to focus on.

Back in late 2012, I read an article by one of my learned colleagues Neil McKellar-Stewart in HIV Living. It was such a good article! In it Neil looked at the health benefits of HIV treatment. He painstakingly tracked down the research, a considerable undertaking – and we owe him a debt of gratitude. I encourage you to read it in full on the NAPWHA website.

Neil showed how HIV treatment provides a number of important benefits. Firstly, it extends life. As Neil states,

"the message is clear. HIV treatment reduces your risk of dying".

It also allows people with HIV who are on treatment to live a near normal life span. A Netherlands study indicated that the life expectancy of people with HIV who receive effective HIV treatment is now approaching that of the general community. The US HIV treatment Guidelines now recommend treatment for all adults with HIV, regardless of CD4 count.

The USA Panel of the International Antiretroviral Society wrote in 2012:

"When HIV is allowed to replicate uninhibited by ART (antiretroviral therapy), resultant immune activation and inflammation are associated not only with immune destruction and opportunistic infections, but also with increased rates of cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, and neurological diseases; malignancies; and other serious non-AIDS diseases."

Another way of saying HIV treatment not only stops disease progression to AIDS and death, but it also reduces the risk of developing other serious chronic health conditions.

Neil also goes on to point out that

''Starting treatment improves your quality of like – both physically and mentally. Positive changes to people's physical health starts as early as one month after commencing ART, and changes to mental health after about four months...There is some good evidence to suggest that treatment reduces depression and fatigue – which makes sense as depression is increasingly recognised as a disease associated with inflammation".

The ability of HIV treatment to inhibit HIV viral replication and prevent immune system destruction is unequivocal. There is however, much to be said on the benefits of treatment for improving cardiovascular, brain, kidney and bone health, and also for reducing the risk of cancer. If you're HIV-positive and not taking treatment, talk with your doctor about which treatment combination might be right for you.

You'll never look back.

Read Neil's article titled "Why treatment is good for you"in the September 2012 issue of Positive Living on the NAPWHA website.

Also at http://gaynewsnetwork.com.au/viewpoint/the-benefits-of-hiv-treatment-11688.html

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Guest Friday, 14 December 2018

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