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.

267 comments

  1. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Maria,

    Given the increase, this is something that you’ll need to talk to your doctor about. The weight gain could be due to your ARVs, however this amount of weight gain doesn’t really happen with ARVs.

  2. Maria

    I was 45 now I’m 99kg since I started treatment what can I do

  3. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Benitor,

    Septrin is an antibiotic, it’s not an ARV, it doesn’t have any effect on HIV. If you’ve been off meds since November your viral load will have rebonded, your CD4 may also have dropped. As to how much it’s not possible to say. Is there any reason why you can’t access ARVs? When are you planning on going home?

    When you get access again to ARVs you might be able to use the ones that you were previously taking. However, it’s also possible that you may have developed resistance. You’ll need to talk to your doctor. You should also have a viral load test done and a CD4 count. You will be fine, but it’s important that you restart taking ARVs.

  4. Benitor

    My meds got finished in November but am taking septrin till i go back home and get my ARVS but am scared that my CD 4 and viral load might decline ,what should I do,can i continue with my meds when i get it,and is septrin helping inthis time when am not having ARVS

  5. Simon Collins

    Hi Hanifa. I am sorry to hear this. It is nearly always okay to just restart using the same meds. If you are not sure when you can next travel home, it would be better to restart now. If you are not being monitored, then it is better to be taking meds again. Please explain all this history to your doctor when you do get home.

  6. Hanifa

    helo i am hanifa
    i have been out of drugs for 5months since the last medicine that i was supposed to get from home was seized with customs here in turkey. however i have managed to get meds but my worry is can i continue taking yhe same medicine until i can finally go back home for tests and check up or i wait til i go back incase of meds change.

  7. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Rav,

    Given that your viral load was 3858 copies ml when you started medication, it should in theory now be undetectable. However, to know for sure you’re going to need to have a viral load test done.

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