HIV and AIDS: What You Need to Know About Treatment and Testing
Years ago, an HIV diagnosis meant a difficult road ahead and taking a handful of different pills each day. Today, treatment is much simpler, and according to Cornelius Van Dam, MD, most HIV patients are able to live long, healthy and normal lives.
We live right in the heart of the HIV epidemic. More than half of all newly diagnosed cases of HIV in the United States are located in the southeast, and in North Carolina, Guilford County is the 3rd highest county for new diagnoses.
Van Dam generally recommends that everyone be tested, especially if you are sexually active. There are other risk factors as well, including injection drug use. It’s important to talk to your health care provider about your risk. If you are at higher risk, you should be tested more frequently.
Today’s treatment is easier than many people would think. In the past, treatments included taking a multitude of different pills every day – but now, most of the patients that Van Dam treats take only one pill per day. Taking this once-per-day pill brings the HIV virus under control rapidly.
These medications can reduce the amount of the virus in your blood to an undetectable level, meaning that patients can live a relatively normal life. It allows your immune system to stay healthy or to build back up if it has been damaged. Additionally, if you have undetectable levels of HIV in your blood, then you will not pass the virus to sexual partners.
Have questions about HIV and its risk factors? Reach out to your health care provider to talk about your specific health needs.
About the Author
Cornelius Van Dam, MD, is a member of Cone Health Medical Group and practices at the Regional Center for Infectious Disease.