Drugs for the treatment and prevention of HIV

Drugs for the treatment and prevention of HIV

Nearly 7,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with HIV each year.

There is no cure for HIV. But treatments can cause the level of the virus in the blood to be so low that tests won’t detect it. This is called “undetectable viral load”.

The treatment allows people living with HIV to live longer and healthier lives. And taking the medicine also reduces the risk of spreading the virus to other people.

Undetectable = untransmittable (I=I)

HIV treatment

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) = a mixture of drugs used to treat HIV

ART reduces the level of HIV in the body and is useful for:

  • Reduce the risk of spreading the virus to another person
  • Prevent the virus from becoming AIDS
  • Protect the immune system

ART is recommended for all people living with HIV.

Treatment should begin immediately when the diagnosis is received.

Great news!

If you don’t have HIV, there are medications that can reduce your chances of getting the virus if you’re exposed to it.

Types of HIV prevention

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) = a pill or injection that is taken or given before you are exposed to HIV to protect you from being infected.

The drug prevents HIV from making copies and spreading in a person who has been exposed to HIV.

When taken correctly, PrEP reduces the chances of getting HIV from sex by about 99%.

You might consider PrEP if:

  • You have vaginal or anal sex with someone who has HIV
  • Have sex without a condom
  • You have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) within the past 6 months
  • Share syringes

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) = a rescue drug that you take within 3 days after a possible exposure to HIV

Take one pill a day for 28 days. PEP can prevent the virus from taking hold in your body. Don’t wait, the sooner you take the medicine, the better it will work.

PEP is for people who may have been exposed to the virus during sex, while sharing needles, or after being stuck with a needle at work.


HIV treatment and prevention prevent the spread of this virus. Talk to your doctor to determine which options might work for you.

This resource was prepared with support from Gilead and Merck.

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