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Why adherence is important

ART only works if it is taken exactly as the healthcare professional prescribes. ART only suppresses (pushes down) our viral load if we take the right medication at the same time every day.

After 3 to 6 months of ART, the HIV virus may be so suppressed that it will not show up in a blood test. This is called an undetectable viral load (UVL). This does not mean we are cured. We have to continue taking our HIV medication to stay undetectable.

A person with an undetectable viral load:

  • Has little or no chance of passing the virus on to a sexual partner.
  • Can have HIV-negative children.
  • May live as long as somebody without HIV.

If we skip ART even once or stop it, the virus will continue multiplying and attacking the immune system. This can lead to drug resistance. Then you will need a different and stronger ART, which may have more side effects.

Taking drugs regularly as prescribed by the healthcare professional can be difficult physically and emotionally. It is a life-long commitment. For this reason it is important that before you start ART you are prepared, organised and ready.

  • Don’t wait too long, as ART is most effective if started within 90 days of testing positive for HIV.
  • You can get support and counselling at the clinic.
  • Find out about joining an adherence group.
  • Talking to other HIV-positive people will help you be mentally strong.

With support from the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through the National Department of Health.

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