Q and A

18 top questions…

About half of all the questions to i-Base are covered by the few questions below.

Please check this page before asking a question. If your question is covered by the topics below, we will send you to these answers first.

Top questions

1: Why doesn’t i-Base answer questions on HIV testing and transmission?

Short answer: i-Base does care if are worried about catching HIV – but are resources are too limited to answer these questions. Instead we have posted lots of info online that answers questions about testing and risk. The full answer explains this and includes links to this other information. See full answer.

2. Is U=U really true? Does ART prevent HIV risk to partners?

Quick answer: Yes. Undetectable viral load means HIV is Untransmittable (U=U). . This is related to Q9 above about not needing condoms. See more info on U=U and Q&As on U=U.

3: Can I increase my CD4 count without treatment?

Short answer: using HIV meds (called ART) is the only proven way to increase your CD4 count and keep it high. Not vitamins, not supplements, not diet and definitely NOT so-called “immune-boosters” which are scams. Read the full answer for details.

4: What happens if I am late or miss a dose of meds?

Short answer: Aiming for the same time is a good habit but everyone is late or misses a dose sometimes, without any harm. There is more flexibility once you have been undetectable for some time. See the full answer for details.

5: How can one partner test positive and the other negative?

Short answer: This is just good luck up to now – HIV is difficult to catch. Sometimes this question comes from the positive partner and sometimes from the negative partner. Often both partners can be confused if they not been using condoms, sometimes for several years. The full answer explains why this is common.

6: Can HIV positive people have a baby?

Short answer: absolutely yes, but you need to use HIV treatment (ART). Sometimes this question comes from a positive man and sometimes from a positive women. Sometimes both people are positive. ART covers all situations. ART lets couples conceive naturally if one partner is HIV negative. It also protect the health of the mother and baby during pregnancy, if the mother is positive. See this section of the guide to HIV and pregnancy.

7: What happens if I stop taking treatment?

Short answer: your viral load will rebound quickly (maybe within a week). Your CD4 is likely to drop, though this takes a little longer to change. The viral rebound will usually be to the level your viral load was at before you started HIV treatment. Please see the full answer for details.

8: What does the number on an HIV test result mean, or “non-reactive”?

Short answer: less than 1.0 means you are HIV negative. “Non-reactive” also means HIV negative. i-Base does not answer test questions but we still get asked this a lot from outside the UK. This full answer has links for more info on HIV testing.

9: Can we stop using condoms if viral load is undetectable on treatment?

Quick answer: the PARTNER study reported zero transmissions after couples had sex more than 58,000 times without condoms. Whether gay or straight, an undetectable viral load stops HIV transmission. Condoms are useful for other reasons, but not if you are only using them to stop HIV.  Read the easy Q&A for full results in the link.

10: Questions about life expectancy…

Quick answer: with effective HIV treatment (ART) life expectancy is similar to being HIV negative. This is slightly more complicated if you are diagnosed late or have other coinfections. Otherwise, so long as you are good taking meds you can plan to have a full and active life. See this full answer. Or see these similar Q&As for more details.

11: How quickly will treatment start to work?

Quick answer: HIV treatment (ART) starts to work from the first dose on day day. Viral load drops quickly, perhaps by 90% in the first week, then steadily until it gets to undetectable. The CD4 count increases more slowly and steadily, See ART in pictures for more detail.

12: I have a rash… headache… diarrhoea… sleep problems…

Quick answer: Please contact your doctor or clinic if you are worried about a new symptom. Your doctor needs to decide what is the cause and whether this is a side effect or linked to another infection. i-Base has lots of information online, but we are not doctors and so can’t diagnose a symptom or recommend treatment.

13. Can I use herbs or supplements with my HIV meds?

Quick answer: Unless there is evidence to prove safety, i-Base advises caution. An interaction might stop your HIV meds from working or cause serious side effects. See this full answer to explain these risks and for info about interactions occur.

14: What can make efavirenz (Atripla/Tribuss etc) easier – or should I change?

Short answer: Take at night and not after a high fat meal, change to a different combination if this don’t get easier. Side effects with efavirenz can be difficult. This question includes tips for how to make it easier and for when to change. Efavirenz is one of the drugs in Atripla and the many generic versions including Atenef, Atreslawin, Atroiza, Citenvir, Heftenam, Odimune, Tribuss, Trivenz, Truno, Trustiva and Viraday. See the full answer for details.

15. Will I always test HIV positive with undetectable viral load?

Quick answer: Yes, for most people. HIV tests look for antibodies and even if there is an HIV cure the HIV test will be positive. But very early ART might be an exception. See full answer.

16. What is the best food if I am HIV positive?

Quick answer: just like anyone else, eating a healthy and balanced diet is good for your health. Being HIV positive doesn’t need a special diet. Eat plenty of vegetables (“five-a-day”), beans, pulses, whole grains and white meat and reduce salt, sugar, red meat and high fat foods. See: A balanced diet and your health.

17. Can I switch between Atrpila, Odimune, Rixene and Trivenz etc?

Quick answer: yes. These are all generic versions of the same single-pill HIV combination. These are tenofovirD (TD or TDF), FTC and efavirenz. See: generic HIV drugs and Atripla.

18. What are risk of COVID-19 and can HIV positive people use vaccines?

Quick answer. HIV might increase risk of more serious COVID-19. Vaccines are strongly recommended in the UK for all people living with HIV. See: Q&A on COVID vaccines.

Last updated: 1 March 2023.