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Antiretroviral medications work to lower the levels of the virus in the bloodstream – viral load – which helps to prevent the progression of HIV to AIDS, the most advanced stage of HIV. Even if you do not feel sick or show symptoms, it’s important to consult a health care provider as soon as possible to get on treatment. In addition to benefiting your own health and well-being, people who take their medication regularly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to sexual partners by as much as 96 percent. Also treatment significantly reduces the likelihood of an HIV-positive pregnant woman transmitting HIV to her baby.
For those who do not have insurance or whose insurance does not cover HIV treatment and otherwise cannot afford treatment, the federal “AIDS Drug Assistance Program” (ADAP),”administrated by state health departments to help those with HIV access treatment, may be an option for you. Talk with your health care provider about this option, or check with the ADAP in your state to see if you are eligible. AIDS service organizations in your area can also assist with ADAP and other drug assistance options.
Individual pharmaceutical company Patient Assistance Programs offer another avenue for financial support. In an effort to streamline the process for patients, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with seven industry partners to establish a single application form for HIV patient assistance programs. The form acts as a “one-stop shop,” allowing patients to use one form to apply for multiple patient assistance programs that together provide an entire course of antiretroviral therapy.The application can be found here.
Many health care providers today recommend that HIV-positive patients remain on treatment even when their viral load, the amount of virus in the bloodstream, is low. Some patients get big rebounds in viral load when they stop their medication, and others develop resistance to certain medications if they aren’t taken consistently. Research has also shown people who begin medication early, and take their medication regularly, reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to a sexual partner by as much as 96 percent. Decisions about treatment should be made in consultation with your physician.