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Living with HIV

Being diagnosed with HIV infection doesn't mean the end of your life. You can take steps to avoid the onset of AIDS, and you can live an active, productive life.

You will likely have a team of people involved in your care, many of them healthcare providers. To successfully manage HIV, it is important that you stick to your treatments. Taking medicine, known as antiretroviral therapy (ART), is just one part of your overall care plan. Partner with your health care providers to ensure you stay as healthy as possible.

What does antiretroviral therapy do? How do I know if it's working?

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps control HIV by preventing it from reproducing in the body. This lowers the amount of HIV virus in the blood (viral load). ART is usually taken as a combination of three or more drugs.

What is a viral load?

Viral load is a technical term that is a measure of the number of virus particles present in the bloodstream, expressed as copies of virus per milliliter of blood. This measurement helps in treatment decisions and to monitor the efficacy of a treatment.

What does it mean when the viral load is undetectable?

Having an undetectable viral load does not mean you are cured and no longer have HIV. It means that the amount of virus in your body is so low that the test cannot detect it. Viral load tests are not perfect and use only a small sample of blood. If there is very little virus in the sample, the test may miss it. There also may be temporary increases in viral load between tests.

Are the HIV cures I read about on the Internet real?

No, there is no cure for HIV infection. Some people have claimed to have discovered a cure for HIV and attempted to sell these cures to people living with HIV. Many of these fake "cures" can do additional physical and mental harm to people living with HIV and prevent them from seeking proven treatments and support that can extend their lives.

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Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Page maintained by: Prevention Communication Branch, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
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Page last reviewed: June 20, 2012
Page last updated: July 12, 2012