The treatments given to people living with HIV are called anti-retrovirals (ARVs), these are drugs developed to control the virus at various stages during its lifecycle.

Different ARVs work on the virus in different ways, so for maximum effect people living with HIV are given combination therapy (cART) usually made up of three or four different drugs at once.  These may be prescribed as one pill once a day, or it might be three of four separate pills.

The combination of treatment given depends on which strain of HIV the person has, what other health conditions and medications they may already have, and how it would fit in with their life. Each combination is carefully picked for that person by a HIV specialist.

It is important that people receiving HIV treatment take their medication every day at the same time. This maintains a steady level of the medication in the body fighting the virus around the clock, and prevents resistance to the medication.

One of the goals of effective HIV treatment is to reduce a person’s viral load (the amount of virus in the body) to an incredibly low level, which is known as ‘undetectable’.

When the virus is undetectable it has minimal impact on the immune system, and other bodily systems, which means people living with HIV on effective treatment can expect long and healthy lives.

We now also know that having an undetectable viral load means you’re unable to pass on HIV to your sexual partners. Find out more here (link to previous page).