Modern medicine, and a more empathetic society, have come a long way.
Hindsight is 20/20, so it’s easy to wish that society knew what we know now when the HIV epidemic first broke out. As Stella Safo, MD, puts it, “The world of HIV is the best it’s ever been.”
“If you’ve been told you have HIV, you should feel pretty confident that you’re going to be taking a medicine that isn’t going to interfere with your life,” says Dr. Safo, HIV internist at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. “It’s just going to help you control your HIV in a way that lets you live the best life that you want to live.”
The Top 3 Reasons To Stay Hopeful with HIV
1. More Treatment Options
There is now a wide range of effective medicines to treat HIV. For years, people with HIV could only choose from a handful of medicines, and so much was unknown. “If there’s any reason you don’t like the regimen you’re on, it’s very easy to change you to something else,” says Dr. Safo.
There’s also new types of drugs that doctors never even imagined would exist. There are different classes, such as an injection that will prevent HIV for three months at a time, or combination antiretroviral drugs, taken orally. This means it’s easier than ever for people to find a treatment regimen that works with their lifestyle.
2. Better Prognosis
Today, HIV can be managed like a chronic illness and is no longer a death sentence. In the past, an HIV diagnosis often meant that people had a matter of years to live. That’s no longer the case. Managing HIV is now similar to managing other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, or rheumatoid arthritis. As long as they are sticking to their HIV medicines, they can likely keep their HIV under control and live a long and relatively normal life.
3. Reduced Stigma
One of the things that made an HIV diagnosis devastating in the past was the fear of isolation and stigmatization. Today, the general public is more knowledgeable and accepting when it comes to HIV. People who learn their HIV diagnosis today are less likely to be kicked out of their homes, for example. Having HIV won’t make them a pariah in their world anymore.
It’s important to live a positive life—to the fullest extent of the word. If you need help understanding your treatment, learning how to have tough conversations with loved ones, or managing your emotional state with these life changes, reach out to your doctor. You could also find a support group. There are millions of people living and thriving with HIV who are ready to help.
Stella A. Safo, MD, is an HIV primary care physician and assistant professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.
- Antiretroviral Drug Discovery and Development. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 2018. (Accessed on June 24, 2021)
- HIV/AIDS Medicines. Bethesda, MD: Medlineplus.gov, 2018. (Accessed on June 24, 2021)
- Overview of antiretroviral agents used to treat HIV. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc, 2021. (Accessed on June 24, 2021)
- When to initiate antiretroviral therapy in persons with HIV. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc, 2020. (Accessed on June 24, 2021)
- Patient monitoring during HIV antiretroviral therapy. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc, 2020. (Accessed on June 24, 2021)
- Selecting an antiretroviral regimen for treatment-experienced patients with HIV who are failing therapy. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc, 2020. (Accessed on June 24, 2021)
- Suzuki T, Hara N, Osa M, Misawa K, Imai K, Fujikura Y, Maeda T, Sonehara W, Kawana, A. Efficacy of switching to dolutegravir plus rilpivirine, the small-tablet regimen, in patients with dysphagia: two case reports. Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Care and Sciences volume 3, Article number: 23 (2017)
- Bateganya M, Amanyeiwe U, J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2016 Jan 12.