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HIV Treatment

Medicines to treat HIV are safe and more effective than ever. The sooner you begin your treatment, the less damage HIV can cause.

When you are on treatment, your viral load can become undetectable. That means the level of HIV is so low it does not show up on tests. If your viral load is undetectable for at least six months, you still have HIV but you cannot pass it to others through sex.

HIV care and treatment services are available to all New Yorkers living with HIV, regardless of their ability to pay or immigration status. To find a provider near you, visit the NYC Health Map or text “CARE” to 877-877.

There are a variety of ways uninsured and underinsured New Yorkers can get free HIV testing and primary care. The following programs include services such as general care, lab tests and medications.

  • HIV Uninsured Care Programs: Anyone who is HIV positive and lives in New York State, regardless of immigration status, can get financial assistance for health care services. That includes the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, co-pay assistance, support for outpatient medical visits and labs, home care and health insurance premium assistance.
  • Medicaid: Medicaid is a government insurance program for families and individuals with low income and few resources.
  • Medicare: Medicare is the federal health insurance program for seniors and working-age people with disabilities.
  • New York State of Health (NY Health Insurance Marketplace): Due to insurance reforms, health plans cannot deny someone coverage due to a pre-existing condition. Undocumented people are eligible for some insurance programs.

Immigration status does not affect your ability to get HIV care and treatment. Treatment is available to every New York State resident, including undocumented immigrants.

HIV medicines stop the virus from making copies of itself and can reduce it to an undetectable level. Keeping your HIV viral load undetectable helps keep you healthy and means you will not transmit the virus to your sex partners. This is also known as “Undetectable equals Untransmittable” or “U=U”.

HIV medications only work if you have enough medicine in your body, so you should take each medication as prescribed at close to the same time every day.

Even if you feel healthy, do not take a break from treatment. If you are considering stopping your HIV medicines for any reason, talk to a doctor or nurse before you do.

Tips to Make Medication Part of Your Daily Routine

  • Take medicines before or after daily activities, such as when you eat breakfast or brush your teeth.
  • Use a pill box to help you remember to take all your pills.
  • Ask your pharmacy if they can package your pills in daily blister packs.
  • Set daily reminders on your phone or watch, or download an app to help you stay on track.
  • You can sign up to receive text reminders to take your pills by texting “MEDS” to 877-877.

Many people who take HIV medicines report no side effects. If you do experience side effects, speak with your doctor or nurse before side effects interrupt your treatment.

Here are some tips on how to manage some common side effects:

  • To prevent nausea, take medications with a snack or before you go to bed.
  • To relieve nausea, eat ginger candy or drink chamomile or peppermint tea.
  • To manage diarrhea, drink plenty of water and add a fiber supplement.
  • For occasional diarrhea, try a diet of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
  • To manage fatigue, get exercise, plenty of rest and eat a well-balanced diet.
  • If you are depressed or have trouble sleeping, talk with your doctor about whether these symptoms may be related to any of your medications.

Your provider can help you address any side effects or other health-related issues that you may be experiencing. There are many treatment options, so work with your provider to find a regimen that works for you.

It is up to you to decide who to talk to about your health care. Friends and family may be able to provide support that helps you stick to your care and treatment plan.

It can be hard to tell sex partners that you have HIV. The conversation may be easier if you are taking HIV medicines and your HIV is undetectable. People who maintain an undetectable viral load for at least six months and beyond do not pass HIV to others through sex.

You can also talk to your partners about daily PrEP and emergency PEP. These are safe medicines that can prevent the transmission of HIV.

The Positive Life Workshop is a peer-led workshop that helps people living with HIV to take medications and see their medical provider regularly. The free, monthly workshops are also available in Spanish.

To go to a workshop, register by contacting one of the three community-based organizations in NYC where they are held:

Additional Resources

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