Three different studies of the prevention effectiveness of viral suppression to reduce the risk for sexual HIV transmission have shown similar results: across thousands of couples with different HIV statuses and many thousand acts of sex without a condom or PrEP, no HIV transmissions were observed when the HIV-positive partner was virally suppressed as the result of antiretroviral treatment. This means that getting and staying virally suppressed is not only the best thing people living with HIV can do to maintain their health, but also one of the best ways to prevent new infections through sex. This page will be updated soon to reflect this.
Why Is It Important for Me to Take My HIV Medications Every Day?
Taking your HIV medications every day provides many benefits. Among them, it:
- Allows HIV medications to reduce the amount of HIV in your body. If you skip your medications, even now and then, you are giving HIV the chance to multiply rapidly. Keeping the amount of virus in your blood as low as possible is the best way to protect your health.
- Helps keep your immune system stronger and better able to fight infections.
- Reduces the risk of passing HIV to others. Staying on your treatment plan and keeping the amount of HIV in your body as low as possible means that it is less likely that you can pass the virus to others. Learn more about Treatment as Prevention.
- Helps prevent drug resistance. Drug resistance develops when the virus changes form and no longer responds to certain HIV medications. This is a problem because that drug no longer works on your HIV. Skipping your medicines makes it easier for drug resistance to develop. Also, HIV can become resistant to the medications you are taking or to similar ones that you have not yet taken. This limits the options for successful HIV treatment. Drug-resistant strains of HIV can be transmitted to others, too.
What Should I Do If I Miss a Dose?
Taking your HIV medicines exactly the way your health care provider tells you to will help keep your viral load low and your CD4 cell count high. If you skip your medicines, even now and then, you are giving HIV the chance to multiply rapidly. This could weaken your immune system, and you could become sick.
Talk to your health care provider if you miss a dose. In most cases, if you realize you missed a dose, take the medicines as soon as you can, then take the next dose at your usual scheduled time (unless your pharmacist or health care provider has told you something different).
If you find you miss a lot of doses, talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about ways to help you remember your medicines. You and your health care provider may even decide to change your treatment regimen to fit your health care needs and life situation, which may change over time.
Do I Have to Take My Medicines If My Viral Load Is Undetectable?
Yes, antiretroviral therapy (ART) reduces viral load, ideally to an undetectable level. If your viral load goes down after starting ART, then the treatment is working, and you should always take your medicine as prescribed by your health care provider. Even when your viral load is undetectable, HIV can still exist in semen, vaginal and rectal fluids, breast milk, and other parts of your body, so you should continue to take steps to prevent HIV transmission. Taking your HIV medications on schedule will help keep your viral load very low and help you maintain your health. It will also make it more difficult for you to pass HIV on to others.