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Enhancing the health and social wellbeing of children and young people living with HIV

Medicine

Anyone in your family who has HIV will usually have to take medicines (meds) every day- unless they haven't yet started taking medication. No medication is nice to take, but it is important for staying well and keeping healthy. Some people will have to take one pill once a day where others may have to take more than one pill, more than once a day. This is to do with how the medication is working in the body, and any side effects that the person may have experienced. 

HIV lives inside the fluids in the body. Everyone’s body has an immune system (this is what fights off illnesses and protects you from infections). The HIV virus attacks the immune system cells, and makes copies of itself which kill off the helpful immune system cells, and so, after a while, your immune system cannot fight off colds and other illnesses.

The medicines, which are called anti-retroviral therapies, stop the HIV from attacking the immune system. They can’t get rid of the HIV virus completely, but they do stop it multiplying (making more and more copies of the virus), and therefore help the immune system to fight the HIV.

How It Works

There currently isn’t any medication that can take HIV away completely. Scientists are still looking for a cure, but they haven't found one yet.

The medication works by keeping the HIV locked up so it doesn’t make copies of itself. It also helps the body's immune system to fight off infections. There are different types of medication that work together to control HIV in the body. This is why people in your family who have HIV may take more than one tablet or liquid medicine.

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Side Effects

A ‘side effect’ is when taking a particular medicine makes you feel unwell. Even though medicines are important and help you to stay well, they can sometimes give you an unpleasant feeling at the same time. You may get headaches, feel sick, be sick, have an upset stomach or have sleep problems. Side effects can be any symptom that is different to your normal state. Any medicine – even something like Paracetamol – has a long list of possible side effects.

The people in your family living with HIV may get some of these. It is quite usual for this to happen when the type of medication which is taken, or combination of medicines, is changed by their doctor as the old ones aren't working as well anymore. Side effects often go away once the body gets used to the new medication. Sometimes the side effects will not go away and then the person taking them may want to talk to their doctor about trying other medication types instead.

 

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(Side effects explanation tool. Click on the picture link to view the resource.)