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HIV Treatment

HIV Treatment Adherence

Last Reviewed: September 16, 2020

Key Points

  • Treatment adherence includes starting HIV treatment, keeping all medical appointments, and taking HIV medicines every day and exactly as prescribed (also called medication adherence). For people with HIV, treatment adherence is key to staying healthy.
  • It's best to see a health care provider as soon as possible after testing positive for HIV. Once in medical care, people with HIV should start taking HIV medicines as soon as possible.
  • Because HIV requires lifelong treatment, it's important for people with HIV to regularly visit their health care provider. Ongoing medical care includes monitoring to make sure a person's HIV regimen is keeping the virus under control.

What is HIV treatment adherence?

For people with HIV, treatment adherence means:
  • Starting HIV treatment
  • Keeping all medical appointments
  • Taking HIV medicines every day and exactly as prescribed (also called medication adherence)
Adherence to treatment is a key part of staying healthy with HIV.

How soon should a person start treatment after testing positive for HIV?

It's best to see a health care provider as soon as possible after testing positive for HIV. Once in medical care, people with HIV should start taking HIV medicines as soon as possible. Treatment with HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) is recommended for everyone with HIV. HIV medicines help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. HIV medicines also reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Because HIV requires lifelong treatment, it's important for people with HIV to regularly visit their health care provider. Ongoing medical care includes monitoring to make sure a person's HIV regimen is keeping the virus under control. During regular medical appointments, health care providers can also recommend resources to help people deal with any issues that may interfere with medication adherence.

Why is medication adherence important?

Taking HIV medicines every day prevents HIV from multiplying, which reduces the risk that HIV will mutate and produce drug-resistant HIV. Skipping HIV medicines allows HIV to multiply, which increases the risk of drug resistance and HIV treatment failure.

Poor adherence to an HIV regimen also allows HIV to destroy the immune system. A damaged immune system makes it hard for the body to fight off infections and certain cancers.