Q and A

Question

What happens if I stop taking treatment?

What are the side effects if someone stops taking her medication for HIV?

Answer

Thanks for your question.

May I ask why you are thinking of stopping? Many people find adhering hard at some in their lives but there are ways to make it easier. Likewise if you are suffering side effects – you can switch to meds that better suit you.

Several years ago a very large study called SMART reported that stopping treatment increased the risk of  serious complications. These included a higher risk for heart, liver and kidney complications in people who stopped treatment and also a higher rate of some cancers.

If you decide to stop treatment, your viral load is likely to rebound within a week or two. If you stay off treatment your CD4 count will start to drop over the next few months. When this happens the risk of developing other infections and getting sick increases.

In the SMART study, most people who took a treatment break did pretty well for a short time. However, most people were not able to recover their CD4 count to earlier levels even 18 months after they restarted treatment.

Please talk to your doctor about who you feel. It is not generally good to stop treatment. It is definitely not good to do this without first talking to your doctor.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

255 comments

  1. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Lerato,

    Can I just clarify, are you saying that you’ve stopped taking ARVs because you’ve been diagnosed with TB? If this is the case, then there’s no need to stop taking ARVs. You can take both ARVs and TB medication at the same time.

    If you’ve stopped taking ARVs you risk developing resistance, your HIV will no longer be under control.

  2. Lerato

    I’m HIV positive a take a medication for 6month after the find out a had a TB the stop medication

  3. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Thulile,

    It’s great that your brother has started HIV treatment again.

    However, it’s important that he sees his doctor so that his symtoms can be looked at. This is important because this could be a bad reaction to the new ARVs. He may need to change to other HIV meds quickly.

  4. Thulile

    My brother started on arvs 2018 and he stopped taking it for 10 months and he started getting sick again,he went back to the clinic they gave him treatment again after a week he started to feel sick red eyes and rash or blisters on face what to do

  5. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Tamba J,

    It’s great to hear that you want to restart medication. With regards to restarting, yes this is something that you can do. You should be OK to go back to the meds that you were using for those 8 days, however it’s best to discuss this with your doctor. Depending on how long you missed taking your meds for, they may wish to do a CD4 count test as well as viral load. There will be options, and yes you can take meds again.

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