for Veterans and the Public
Which drugs should you take?
Now that you have learned a little about the types of drugs that are available and how they work, you may be wondering how your VA health care provider will know which medicines you should take.
Anti-HIV drugs are used in combination with one another in order to get the best results. The goal is to get the viral load as low as possible (to levels that are undetectable by standard laboratory tests) for as long as possible.
Anti-HIV medicines do different things to the virus--they attack it in different ways--so using the different drugs in combination works better than using just one by itself. Combinations usually include three antiretroviral drugs. Except in very special circumstances, anti-HIV drugs should never be used one or two at a time. Using only one or two drugs at a time can fail to control the viral load and let the virus adapt (or become resistant) to the drug. Once the virus adapts to a drug, the drug won't work as well against the virus, and maybe it won't work at all.
There is no one combination of HIV medications that works best for everyone. Each combination has its pluses and minuses.
When drugs are used together, the therapy is called combination therapy [or antiretroviral therapy (ART)].
So, how will your health provider know which combination to choose? You and your VA provider can consider the options, keeping certain things in mind, such as possible side effects, the number of pills you'll need to take, and how the drugs interact with each other and with other medications you may take.
Print out these questions to ask your health care provider if you are considering combination therapy.