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How does ART work?

ART stops HIV from replicating – ie from making copies of itself. 

This reduces viral load to very low levels. Your CD4 count then gets stronger again by itself (ie ART doesn’t directly increase your CD4 count).

When not on ART, your immune system works in overdrive.

  • HIV infects CD4 cells and uses them to make more virus.
  • Your body produces new CD4 cells to fight the new HIV.
  • HIV then uses these new cells to produce even more virus.

Over time, without ART, your immune system gets worn out. It is like a dog chasing it’s own tail. See below.

After ART, your body stops over-producing CD4 cells. Your immune system then gets the chance to repair itself and to grow stronger.

When not on treatment, your immune system works in overdrive

Last updated: 1 October 2019.