Why starting antiretroviral therapy after diagnosis is best?

Starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) immediately after diagnosis will help prevent the virus from replicating. Although ART is not a cure, it significantly lowers the risk of developing opportunistic infections. It can get the viral load low and even undetectable.

What happens when you start ART late?

Without ART, the viral load can rise significantly within the first six months. It makes a person living with HIV vulnerable to infections and illnesses, and increases risk of HIV transmission.

Benefits of immediately starting ART


PLHIVs who continue to take ART can lead to U=U, or undetectable equals untransmittable. In short, continuing ART and maintaining an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to others. There is no to low risk of transmitting the virus through oral, vaginal, or anal sex, or a slight risk of transmitting it during pregnancy up to delivery.

Do HIV medications have side effects?

There are side effects, but they depend on the drug combination. PLHIVs will also experience different responses to ART that could include the following:

  • dry mouth
  • nausea, vomiting
  • difficulty sleeping
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • rash

IMPORTANT!!! If the side effects persist, speak to your physician

What is the cost of HIV treatment?

The cost of HIV treatment depends on whether the treatment will be taken from a Philippine government or private hospital. Government support for PLHIVs undergoing ART in San Lazaro or the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) exists. However, a client would need to pay for treatment in private hospitals.

IMPORTANT!!! The yearly cost of treatment could increase depending on health complications.

What are the psychological barriers that could affect HIV treatment?

Depression and other mental health issues affect HIV treatment and antiretroviral adherence. With this, antiretroviral treatment counseling is essential, including providing other psychosocial support and interventions.

What are the other issues and concerns that could affect HIV treatment?

Other significant concerns or issues that affect HIV treatment are the loss of job or employment, lack of health insurance, lack of accessible housing during testing and treatment, and financial difficulties to cover the cost of transportation. It is a good thing clients can connect to some care and support centers for temporary shelter and counseling.

In the Philippines, PLHIVs can avail of the Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment Package of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth). The health insurance agency reimburses up to P30,000 a year for the medical costs of laboratory exams, including testing for the CD4 level. The health package includes antiretroviral drug toxicity monitoring tests and the professional fees of healthcare professionals caring for the health needs of PLHIVs undergoing treatment.

What support does a PLHIV need during HIV treatment?

Going for ART entails commitment, especially since treatment will last long. With this, PLHIVs will need strong family support to encourage them to adhere to their ART regimen. A robust family support system helps PLHIVs achieve a positive mindset.