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When Should I Start HIV Treatment?

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Updated April 02, 2009

Question: When Should I Start HIV Treatment?
Not everyone will need HIV medications when they are first infected. Treatment guidelines are calling for earlier treatment but how early? When should you be stating your HIV medications. When will it be time to take the big step and start your first HIV regimen?
Answer:

Treatment Guidelines

Opinions vary as to when exactly a person should start HIV medications. While treatment guidelines currently call for an earlier start to HIV therapy, the decision to start medications or to wait is still specific for each person. People without symptoms of infection or a CD4 count above 350 can often wait to start medications. While others experiencing symptoms or having a CD4 count less than 350 should at least consider starting HIV medications. Despite the treatment guidelines, each person is different and needs to be evaluated individually.

Recent data suggests that starting medications sooner rather than later decreases the risk of death by as much as 94 percent. Some believe that the time will come when experts will recommend starting meds with a CD4 count of as high as 500. More studies are being done but many believe that seeing meds begin with CD4 counts of 500 or above may not be far away.

You Have to be Ready

One important factor when it comes time to start your medications is the question; "are you ready"? You need to be "ready" to start any new medication regimen; mentally and emotionally. Taking HIV medications correctly everyday can be hard work. Working through side effects and developing a sound medication schedule requires commitment.

It's a Joint Decision

Finally, starting medication is a decision that involves both patient and doctor. Without a team approach, therapy will not be successful. Your doctor may know what therapy he or she wants to use but only you know if that therapy is right for you. Is it something you will be able to adhere to? Is it a regimen that you will be committed to take? That is a question only yo can answer.

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