Fiction: Having HIV means I am going to die.
Fact: With today’s HIV medicines, you can have a positive outlook. HIV is a virus, but it can be treated. HIV can be managed as a chronic (ongoing) disease, and people living with HIV can live longer and lead healthier lives.
Fiction: If I don’t feel sick; I don’t need to start HIV treatment.
Fact: Just because you do not feel sick does not mean that HIV isn’t harming your body. Treatment guidelines issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommend starting HIV medicines for all people with HIV, regardless of their CD4 count. Studies show that starting treatment earlier may help protect your immune system and vital organs and help you live a longer life. Don’t risk waiting until you feel sick to start treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about your treatment options and all of the factors you need to consider before starting HIV medicines.
Fiction: If I start HIV treatment, my body shape will start changing and I am going to look sick.
Fact: Today there are many HIV medications that are less likely to cause body shape changes. If you are concerned, work with your healthcare provider to decide on a treatment regimen that is right for you.
Fiction: I'm going to have to take a lot of pills.
Fact: In the past, people may have taken 20 or 30 pills a day for their HIV. Today, there are once-daily treatments with fewer pills. Talk with your healthcare provider about HIV medication choices that fit your lifestyle.
Fiction: I'm strong. I’ll be fine without HIV treatment.
Fact: You may hope to stay healthy without taking medicine for your HIV. But HIV will damage your immune system if you leave it untreated. Without treatment, it is very rare for someone living with HIV to keep the amount of HIV in their blood at an undetectable level over the long term. If left untreated long enough, HIV can turn into AIDS.
Fiction: Taking HIV medicines is a constant reminder that I am sick and that I have HIV.
Fact: Starting HIV medicines is a step on the path to wellness with HIV. Think of HIV medicines as part of your desire to stay healthy, not as a reminder of being sick. Remember, HIV medications are a way to keep your CD4 count up, your immune system strong, and your viral load low. When started early in the disease, HIV medicines can help preserve your immune system, reduce the risk of certain diseases, and increase survival.
Fiction: I can't afford HIV treatment.
Fact: There are several programs that can help you pay for HIV medicines. Don't let cost prevent you from starting treatment. If you are worried about the cost and how you will pay for your HIV medicines, here are some ideas:
- Talk with your healthcare provider
- Talk with your AIDS Service Organization (ASO)
- Contact your insurance company
- Find out about government programs, such as AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), Medicaid, or Veterans Affairs (VA)
- Contact the pharmaceutical company that makes your HIV medicines (ask your healthcare provider or ASO to help you)
- Contact the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA)
Fiction: If I know the symptoms of HIV, I will know when to start HIV medicines.
Fact: Symptoms are not a reliable way to diagnose HIV. Most men and women recently infected with HIV have no signs that they have HIV. Also many people living with HIV continue to look and feel well for years. So you may not be able to tell when to start HIV medications based on how you look or feel.
Also, symptoms that may happen during the early stage of HIV infection are similar to symptoms of other illnesses. So you may not recognize them.
But once HIV enters the body, it multiplies (makes copies of itself) very fast and destroys healthy CD4 cells. HIV can also make it harder for the body to make new CD4 cells. CD4 cells are a key part of the immune system. They help fight viruses and bacteria that cause disease. Without treatment, HIV spreads through the body and attacks the body’s immune system.
Work with your HIV healthcare provider to determine the best time for you to start HIV treatment.
Fiction: Women with HIV will die earlier than men with HIV.
Fact: Women whose HIV is diagnosed early and who stick to their HIV treatment regimens may live as long as HIV-infected men who stick to their HIV medicines. Research shows that by sticking to their HIV regimens for more than 6 years and keeping their CD4 counts at or above 500, people with HIV can expect to live as long as people who do not have HIV.