Treatment training manual

3.11 Side effects

Modern HIV treatment (ART) has a low risk of serious side effects. Treatment is now more tolerable and easy to take than it has ever been.

Most people on ART lead a normal life when taking medications. If side effects occur, it is important to change to an alternative combination.

You should only put up with mild side effect that are easy to manage.

Everyone is worried about side effects before they start treatment.

  • Most side effects are usually mild.
  • They can often be reduced with other medication that is easy to use.
  • There is a small risk of more serious side effects. These need to be taken very seriously and should be picked up by routine monitoring from your doctor.

But many people put up with side effects when they could change to another treatment – and this is not good. This is why it is important to report any new symptoms or changes in your health to your doctor.

  • If you are unlucky and get side effects, contact your doctor about this.
  • You have to make sure that your doctor understands exactly how the side effects affect you.
  • More serious side effects can usually be avoided by changing to alternative drugs.

Before starting treatment, learn about the side effects that can occur with the drugs you are going to use.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or HIV pharmacist about how likely they are to occur.

Ask how many people stop treatment because of them (usually very few).

Even rough estimates will give you a good idea of what is involved. Ask other people taking the drugs for their experience. This way you will know what to look out for.

Section 4 — Side effects of ARVs

Further reading

i-Base produce a detailed guide to side effects and long-term complications of HIV and treatment. This is a separate resource to the advocacy manual that has been translated into other languages.

Last updated: 1 January 2016.