Welcome the i-Base guide to HIV and your quality of life…

It includes information about:

  • Side effects and what to do about them.
  • Building a relationship with your doctor and other health workers.
  • Age- and lifestyle-related health issues: diet, exercise, heart disease, bone health and risk cancer. Also, mental health and sexual health.
  • Feeling more in control of your treatment.
  • Getting better medical care and improved health, and
  • Achieving a better quality-of-life.

Although everyone worries about side effects before starting treatment, modern ART often has few or no side effects.

When side effects do occur, they are generally mild and short-term.

If they are difficult, then it is usually easy to change treatment. Getting the right ART is important – it is not just about your CD4 and viral load results.

Looking after your long-term health means making sure you get you the best quality of life.

Negotiating healthcare

This guide has been written by people who are HIV positive. We have taken many of these treatments and experienced many of the side effects

We also understand some of the practical things including talking to your doctor.

Although you may have trouble with one treatment, there is nearly always something you can do about it. This includes using another drug to treat the side effect, changing to another HIV drug, or, sometimes, altering the dose.

However, many people continue with side effects when there are other options..

This might be because communication with your doctor is not as good as it could be.

  • Perhaps there was not enough time.
  • Perhaps your doctor didn’t understand exactly how you are affected.
  • Perhaps you just forget to mention a problem.
  • Perhaps you did not think or feel it was important.

Sometimes, if side effects continue for several months, you might think it is easier not to mention them at all or to just put up with them.

This is not a good approach.

  • Something you think is a side effect might be a symptom of a more serious illness.
  • Newer treatments may have become available that you could use.
  • You deserve the best quality of life.

Many other people can also help including nurses and pharmacists.

Outline of this guide

The first section of this booklet includes general information. This includes how to talk with your doctor and your rights as a patient.

The second section includes information on each side effect or symptom.

The third section is on health issues that may or may not be directly related to HIV or side effects. They are more related to lifestyle choices and to living well with HIV..

The fourth section includes links and references.

Changes to this edition

This online edition includes the following changes:

  • It has been updated to include side effects of recently approved drugs.
  • Side effects of older drugs are more clearly marked. This information is still online for when these drugs are still used, including in different countries.
  • The references have been updated. This includes more than 400 research studies or clinical guidelines. These are listed by subject with hyperlinks to the online publications.

These include:

  • The product information for each drug.
  • Treatment guidelines (from the UK, Europe and the US).
  • Studies that focus on safety of HIV drugs.

Whenever possible we selected references that provide free full text access online.

If you have a question about anything you read here, you can call the i-Base phoneline or email a question to the online Q&A service.

Feedback and comments

We welcome feedback and comments and have developed and online survey.

“Antiretroviral treatment (ART) is now so effective that it is recommended for everyone living with HIV. 

And although everyone worries about side effects before they start treatment, modern ART usually has few or no side effects.

Most side effects are generally mild or short-term.

Getting the right ART is important. It is not just about your CD4 and viral load results. 

Looking after your long-term health means making sure you get you the best quality of life.”

Last updated: 1 November 2021.