Welcome to Baja Medica. Here we are pioneers in the field of HIV testing and therapy. It is only natural that a person feels overwhelmed when they are first diagnosed with HIV. And it is likely that the feeling of being overwhelmed only increases when you learned about the treatment options available.
We have found that the more knowledge a patient has about the testing process and the treatment process, the more at ease they feel and the more in control they feel of their own life. For this reason, we are open to answering any questions you have not only about living with HIV but also about the different tests and treatment options.
The Initial Test
The initial testing phase is designed to help you and your medical provider get a better idea of the effect HIV is having on your immune system. The two primary tests that are performed are the CD4 Count and the Viral Load Test. These tests are going to give your medical provider a frame of reference that they can use during future tests.
They may also ask for other tests, including but not limited to:
- Blood Count
- Blood Chemistry Profile
- STD Testing
- Infection Testing
Medications Used in HIV Therapy
While there is no cure for HIV, there are combinations of medications that can used in this battle against HIV infection. This combination of medication is referred to as ART, or antiretroviral therapy. The goal of this treatment is threefold and includes:
- Allowing You to Live Longer
- Allowing You to Live Healthier
- Minimizing Your Risk of Transmitting HIV to Others
ART therapy is based on a combination of medicines. These medicines stop HIV from multiplying or making copies of itself. This limits the amount of the virus that is inside of your body. If you have less of the virus in your body, your body’s immune system is better able to recover from and even fight off infections and some forms of cancer.
Additionally, by reducing the levels of the virus in your body, HIV medicines are able to minimize your chance of transmitting that virus inadvertently to someone else. ART is a therapy that is recommended for those who have HIV. It does not matter if you recently contracted the virus or if you have had the virus for sometime. If left unchecked, HIV will continue to attack your immune system until it progresses to the point where you have AIDS.
Factors to Consider When Selecting an HIV Regimen
HIV therapy is not a one size fits all thing. The medicines that you use will depend on your personal circumstance. There are a few factors that need to be considered when choosing an HIV regimen. These factors include:
- Other diseases or conditions that you may be battling with.
- Potential side effects of the HIV medications.
- Negative reactions between the HIV medications and other medications you are taking.
- The patient’s likelihood of resisting the drug, which is identified with drug resistance testing.
- Finding an effective regimen that is also convenient for the patient. In some cases, it is possible to combine multiple HIV medicines into one pill. This makes it easier for you to follow the prescription to the letter.
- The price of the medication.
- Personal circumstances that would interfere with the patient’s ability to follow an HIV regimen.
There are a lot of options available when you are ready to start an HIV regimen. The medical professionals at Baja Medica are eager to work with you to help you from the testing phase all the way to the treatment phase with the goal of helping you live a long and happy life.
When to Start HIV Treatment
Your medical provider is going to encourage you to start your HIV treatments based on a few factors. They include:
- Your CD4 count and other test results.
- Other health conditions that you have that could interfere or complicate the treatment. If you are pregnant, your HIV therapy medical professional may adjust the time when you begin your treatment with the goal of promoting a healthy pregnancy.
- Your willingness to stick to your HIV medication regimen for the rest of your life.
It is imperative that once HIV treatments begin, you make visiting your HIV therapy medical professional a regular and constant part of your life. There is no room for procrastination or forgetfulness when it comes to taking your HIV medication. You must take the medication exactly as prescribed. If not, your body may develop a resistance to the drug, which will make the drugs stop working.
Accepting the Emotional Challenges of a Lifelong Treatment
For some, the reality that their life and future well-being, as well as the health of their partner, is dependent on lifelong treatment can be mentally and emotionally overwhelming. Intellectually, a person may understand that the only way for the treatment to succeed is if they are committed to following the plan that is laid out by their HIV therapy medical professional. However, emotionally they may feel like they are forced to choose between a potential death sentence from HIV and a life sentence of dedication and hospital visits. For this reason, treatment may include talk therapy with the goal of helping the patient accept their diagnosis as well as the emotional challenge of sticking to a medication routine for the rest of their life.
It is important to realize that starting an HIV treatment means making drastic changes in the way that you live. You have to mentally be prepared for these changes before you start. And you have to be mentally committed to sticking to the change for the medication to have the best results.
One of the biggest challenges for people to accept is the fact that they will need to take their HIV medications at a particular time. Some have to be taken multiple times a day at a specific time. Some need to be taken with food, and others can only be taken without food.
If you have other health issues that require you to take medication, you will need to balance when you take these medications so that your body is able to process them in the appropriate way. Your HIV therapy medical professional will discuss all of these issues with you as well as help you to see any barriers that might prevent you from sticking with your HIV treatment. They will provide you with healthy ways to address these barriers before they start down the road to treatment.
At Baja Medica, we are committed to working with you. We understand the challenges that your HIV therapy will impose on your life, and we want to help you to make it successful.
Are There Side Effects to HIV Treatment?
All medications will have side effects. Some side effects will have a drastic impact on the way that you feel, and some will be all but unnoticeable. A lot of side effects simply mean that the medication is working in the way that it should.
It is important to understand that with HIV treatment, your HIV therapy medical professional’s goal is to find the perfect balance of drug combinations and the right dosage. You want it to be strong enough to fight off the HIV in your body, but at the same time you do not want it to be so strong that it causes unwanted or unnecessary side effects. Your HIV therapy medical professional is going to talk with you about all of the options that are available and the potential side effects.
Some short-term side effects you may experience include:
- Nerve Problems
Long-term side effects from HIV treatment are often treatable. But as they occur you will need to discuss them with your HIV therapy medical professional. They can work with you to determine the best course of treatment for your disease. It is better to talk to your HIV therapy medical professional about negative side effects than it is to simply decide to stop your HIV treatment plan.
Some of the long-term side effects of HIV treatment may include:
- Lipodystrophy, which is a change in the way your body distributes and stores fat.
- Insulin Resistance, which can produce abnormalities in your blood sugar levels.
- Lipid abnormalities can cause fluctuations in cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Decrease in bone density, which can lead to an increase of bone injuries and bone fractures.
- Lactic acidosis can lead to problems ranging from muscle aches to liver failure.
Thankfully, many of the side affects you first have when you start HIV treatment, such as and upset stomach or tiredness, will eventually go away. Your body simply needs to adjust to the medication that you are using. Any drastic side effects should be reported to your HIV therapy medical professional right away. Do not allow side effects to prevent you from sticking to your treatment. Your treatment routine literally means your life.
At Baja Medica, we are committed to helping you live a long and happy life. We understand the challenges of HIV therapy. But we’ve also seen firsthand how when individuals strictly follow their HIV therapy routine, they are able to enjoy a quality of life that they did not think was possible.
Contact us today, and let us use our years of experience to help you see that life does not end with an HIV diagnosis.