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Antiretroviral therapy.

Antiretroviral therapy, or ART, is the standard treatment for people infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). While it can’t cure HIV, it can keep you healthy for many years and help prevent you from progressing to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

How does ART work?

ART is a combination of medications that works by reducing the amount of HIV in your body. By keeping the amount of virus low, ART can help prevent the onset of AIDS and keep your immune system functioning properly.

What are the benefits of taking ART?

ART provides many benefits, including:

  • Keeping HIV infection from progressing to AIDS
  • Protecting your immune system from becoming damaged and preserving its ability to fight infection
  • Reducing your risk of passing the virus on to others

How is ART taken?

ART is taken in pill form. Depending on which medications your doctor prescribes, you may have to take multiple pills, or they may be combined into one pill.

Do I have to take it every day?

It is important to take your medication exactly as your doctor prescribes. Not doing so can cause the amount of virus in your body to increase. You also risk drug resistance if you skip doses or take your medication incorrectly, which means that the virus in your body adapts to the medications, making your infection more difficult to treat. If you have questions about how to take your medication, talk to your doctor or your CVS Specialty CareTeam.

When should ART treatment be started?

ART should be started as soon as possible after diagnosis or possible exposure to HIV. The earlier it is started, the more effective it will be. However, even if you suspect you may have been infected for a long time, you should still start ART.

Does ART have side effects?

Yes, but not everyone experiences them. Common side effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Pain

If side effects are bothersome or severe, talk to your doctor or your CVS Specialty CareTeam. Your doctor may change your prescription to a different medication. There may also be ways to manage your side effects and get relief from the symptoms you’re experiencing. Do not stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor first.

What if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of your medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. In most cases, you can take your missed dose when you remember it, then continue with your next dose on schedule. If you have difficulty remembering your medication, your CVS Specialty CareTeam can help you with ways to make it easier to stay on track.

If you have any questions about your ART, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. You can also contact your CVS Specialty CareTeam any time with questions or concerns.

This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about your medical condition and prior to starting any new treatment. CVS Specialty assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.

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