HIV is treated with drugs known as ARVs, short for anti-retro-virals. Most people wil need only one ARV pill a day to control the virus.
The South African government provides free HIV treatment to all who need it.
Treatment is really important for your health as it reduces the amount of HIV in your body and boosts your immune system. ARVs also suppresses your viral load. Viral load is the amount of HIV in your blood. When your viral load is high, you have more HIV in your body, and that means your immune system is not fighting HIV efficiently. The earlier you start treatment the better.
You will have go to a clinic where a they will test your CD4 count and your viral load. A CD4 count shows how strong your immune system is, and a viral load tells you how strong the virus is in your body. When CD4 cells are weakened by a high viral load, the body struggles to fight off infections and illnesses. Treatment and a healthy lifestyle strengthen the immune system and weaken the virus weaker.
There are different kinds of ARVs, so if you experience side effects report it to your clinic immediately . Many people say that they experience no side effects. Many people leave reviews and comments about their Arv experiences on the internet, so research it as much as possible. If you have Facebook you will also find many support groups of people who are openly living with HIV who are willing to answer questions. If you want to find a Facebook support group write to [email protected] or send us a message via our page www.facebook.com/BrothersforlifeSA and we can introduce you to a group moderator.
ARV’s are the only treatment for HIV. There are some people who believe that prayer, or holy water, or traditional medicine can treat HIV. This is not so. Prayer can offer emotional and psychological support. Do not take any herbal or traditional medicines unless you discuss them with a health professional.
Some people fear that they will have to make changes to their lifestyle if they are on ARV’s . The truth is that the ideal lifestyle for people on ARVs is the same lifestyle we should all have if we want good health. We should all eat healthy food, exercise regularly and avoid smoking and drinking too much. If you want to ask any questions about living with HIV or taking ARVs, send a message to ask@brothersfor life or send a personal message on www.facebook.com/BrothersforlifeSA
Adherence means staying on ARVs and taking you them according to health professionals instructions. If you adhere to your treatment, you viral load will get lower in your body
Many people tell us that they do not want to go to their local clinics for treatment or to fetch their ARVs because they fear they will be seen by neighbours and their status will be known in the community.
Going to the clinic near you has its benefits . You don’t have to travel long distances and spend a lot of money to get help .
Most healthworkers are caring and respect their patients and do their work as well as possible. The Department of Health has a Patients’ Rights Charter. You can read it here. If you feel that your rights have not been respected, write to head of the health institution.
There are alternative clinics that provide ARVs in some communities Visit: www.healthsites.org.za or *120*662# to find your nearest alternative clinic.
Lebo tells the story of abandoning ARTs after a priest ‘healed’ her, and the consequences. WATCH