Starting Antiretroviral Treatment (ART)

When should someone start Antiretroviral Treatment (ART)?

Starting ART sooner, and not waiting to be sick or have symptoms, is better. South Africa has a Universal Test and Treat (UTT) Policy, which means that anyone who tests positive for HIV can start taking ART immediately, no matter what their CD4 count is.

It is important not to skip or stop taking ARVs. Skipping or stopping can lead to drug resistance. Once someone starts taking ARVs, they must take them every day at the same time. It is a lifelong commitment.

If a person is not sure whether they can stick to taking their ARVs, then it may be better to wait until they feel they are prepared and can stick to treatment. A person living with HIV can find out what their regimen will be. Use sweets in a practice run to get used to the routine. Find a family member or friend who can be a treatment buddy to provide support.

If viral load is high - more than 1000 - and their CD4 count is low -200 or less - it is important to start treatment as soon as possible.

Don't wait until your CD4 count is very low!