Antiretroviral therapy (ARV) is used to reduce your ‘viral load’ – the amount of detectable HIV present in your body. It therefore helps protect and preserve your immune system, preventing opportunistic infections and other complications. In some cases – for instance, in pregnant women – ARVs can also be used to prevent transmission. Our internationally-acknowledged experts use genetic data, your drug history, clinical guidelines, and full knowledge of each available drug to devise in consultation with you an ARV regime suitable for your circumstances.
ARVs are complex and expensive – that means they need to prescribed and taken with care. In order to be effective, these drugs require very strict adherence. They must be taken regularly and precisely if they are to be effective. Patients can also become resistant to certain drugs, and their ‘regime’ – the word we use to describe a given, particular mix of ARVs – will need to be changed. That’s why we screen constantly for the complications of HIV and ARVs, diagnosing and managing them quickly. Patients are also expected to keep their own records.
In addition to the need to watch for resistance and other complications, there are a number of drug-to-drug interactions with ARVs which need to be avoided or managed. At the same time, there may be a range of other implications of ARV therapy, and in order to meet these we provide access to the sexual health, reproductive health, mental health, antenatal and other support services. Our nurses and pharmacists alike will be on hand to help you understand these issues.
Likewise, we benefit from access to the full range of laboratory services, enabling us to offer access to all the relevant tests recommended by the British HIV Association for the monitoring of patients undergoing ARV therapy. Additionally, we can facilitate home delivery of ARVs should a patient qualify for this service.
Timely initiation and effective ongoing management of ARV treatment is crucial if people living with HIV can continue to benefit from undetectable levels of virus, and live full and long lives. The manner in which we work with patients, and offer a raft of support to ensure ARV regimes can sit comfortable in a person’s lifestyle, ensures adherence and good health throughout what will be life-long ARV therapy.