Side Effects of Antiretrovirals (HIV Medication)
Every medicine can cause side effects and antiretrovirals are no different. Side effects can include a decrease in bone density, dizziness, abnormal dreams, depression, dyslipidemia (a high level of fat in your blood), nausea, and diarrhea.1 Keep track of any side effects you may experience while taking antiretrovirals and share them with your provider.
When you decide to take any medication, you are deciding that the benefits of taking it outweigh the costs. It is very important to take your medicine if you have HIV so you can stop the virus before it can give you AIDS. If you have a lot of side effects with your current antiretrovirals, ask your provider about trying a different treatment plan.
Antiretrovirals should be taken every day for U=U to work well. To help you take your antiretrovirals every day, you could try setting reminders on a mobile device, making a habit of taking antiretrovirals with a meal, or asking someone you trust to help you stay on track.
You may want to explain to your sexual partner(s) that you’re using U=U to protect them from getting HIV. Remember, as long as you continue to take your antiretrovirals daily and maintain an undetectable viral load, it is very hard for someone to get HIV from you. You can learn more about disclosure here.
A couple or relationship is serodiscordant when one partner has HIV but the other(s) do not. U=U lets serodiscordant partners have sex without sharing HIV. For more protection, condoms and PrEP can be added to your safer sex practices.
A couple or relationship is seroconcordant when each person in the relationship has HIV. HIV has many strains, or versions, and different people with HIV might not have the same HIV strain. If you have HIV but get infected with a different HIV strain, the new strain may harm you or fight against your current antiretrovirals. So, even if your relationship is seroconcordant, taking your antiretrovirals every day is still important to keep yourself and your partner(s) healthy.
Tell your healthcare provider if you take or plan to take other medications while on antiretrovirals. Some antiretrovirals may or may not work with your current treatment(s).
If you have had any medical problems, especially issues with bone density, share them with your healthcare provider before you start antiretrovirals. Some antiretrovirals may make those problems worse.
Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Antiretrovirals don’t protect you from other sexually transmitted infections like syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. To protect yourself from other sexually transmitted infections, think about adding tools like condoms to your safer sex practices.
Antiretrovirals can’t prevent pregnancy, but antiretrovirals can lower the risk of HIV spreading from the father to the mother and from the mother to the baby.2