Many countries recently adopted a policy called “test and treat” for HIV. If so, if you test positive for HIV, you should be given free ARVs right away. Starting to take ARVs as soon as you find out that you are positive can help prevent the virus from destroying your immune system and keep you healthy. So if you are HIV positive, try your best to get ARVs because they are so important for your life. Seek treatment immediately at any public health facility. They will give you information about ARVs, where to get them and how to use them. You can also ask your family or trusted relatives to help you get ARVs. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and HIV positive, you will be given ARVs to reduce the risk of passing HIV to your baby.
The ARVs that are used in Swaziland are one-a-day tablets, called Atripla. They are a combination of Lamuvidine, Effervirenz and Tenofovir. It’s really important to take your ARVs at the same time every day. If you don’t, you can develop resistance to the drugs, which means they won’t work anymore. If that happens, you will have to go on ‘second-line’ treatment, which is more difficult to take. It’s better to get it right first time! Try to eat well when taking ARVs and do not share your ARVs with anyone. Do not stop taking your ARVS. If you have a problem, talk to a doctor. Tell yourself, “I can and will keep this virus under control at all times.”
If you cannot get on ARVs now, go for regular CD4 and viral load tests to monitor how HIV is progressing in your body. These tests will tell you how healthy your immune system is and the amount of HIV in your blood, which is called the viral load. ARVs can control the virus and prevent you from getting AIDS but they cannot get rid of the virus completely. Scientists are working very hard to develop a cure or a vaccine for HIV. Until that time comes, taking ARVs and adopting healthy a lifestyle is your best option.
If you test HIV+, you are entitled to free ARV treatment. Make sure you keep taking your ARV medicine. Don’t pass HIV to your partner or your babies. Use a condom correctly each time you have sex. Say: “HIV will end with me”.