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Getting diagnosed with HIV: Know when to consider treatment

for Veterans and the Public

Consider treatment

When or whether to start treatment for HIV is a decision that each person must make with his or her providers. In general, experts recommend starting HIV treatment soon after your diagnosis; this can help prevent some of the damage that HIV causes in many parts of the body. HIV treatment (known as antiretroviral therapy, or ART) is strongly recommended for all HIV-infected people, and more urgently for anyone who has evidence of immune suppression (a CD4+ cell count of less than 350-500) or an AIDS diagnosis (an infection or cancer associated with HIV). It also is more urgently recommended for anyone who has a sex partner who is not infected with HIV, and for women who may become pregnant.

In general, you and your provider will need to consider:

  • how healthy your immune system is (this is usually measured by your CD4 count)
  • whether or not you have AIDS
  • whether you can stick to a treatment plan
  • what your other medical problems are
  • whether you have sex partners who may be at risk of becoming infected
  • if you are a woman, whether you plan to become pregnant

For details, see Treatment Decisions.